Much higher than normal grass growth rates are going to present a bit of a headache for farmers in all parts of the country.

Most would view good grass growth rates at the shoulders as a huge positive, and in the main it is, but the fact that most farmers aren’t able to graze because it is too wet means that quality is likely to be very poor next spring.

This is certainly the case on heavy land where cattle and cows have been housed since early October, and where there was already a lot of grass on the farm.

Carrying high covers into the winter on farms that are unlikely to see grazing again until late March or April is going to be bad news for grass quality, with dead and rotting material very likely.

Even on drier farms where cows are still out grazing there could be challenges. The issue here is clover and what cover to close at given that clover doesn’t like to be shaded out.

Fields that were closed in early October have a cover back on them now of close to 1,000kg/ha and if there are decent levels of clover in them then they would need to be grazed again before being closed for the winter.

The same applies with reseeds, many of which have high covers now too.

Grazing these fields now poses two problems. Firstly, how can they be grazed when land is wet and the risk of damage is high and secondly, what impact will it have on average farm cover closing targets?

On the first point, if damage is going to be done by grazing these fields now then don’t graze them.

On ordinarily dry farms that are too wet now, there could be an opportunity to graze with milking or dry cows later this month or early next month.

Heavier farms can’t even think about grazing – it’s just not an option, so all they can do is go with there being too much grass around.

On the second point, grass budgets should probably be revised on the back of higher than normal grass growth rates and the likelihood that they will continue for another few weeks at least.

Therefore, going below target now should be less of a concern thank having clover on farms next year.

Sward Watch

  • Average grass growth rates are much higher than normal and there is a lot more grass on farms than is normally the case at this time of year.
  • These high covers could be problematic as they will reduce grass quality so where possible high covers should be grazed off, particularly in reseeds and high clover paddocks.
  • Where herds are still grazing, review the covers on the first grazed paddocks and decide if they need to be grazed again or not.
  • Farmers

    Barry Reilly – Teagasc Ballyhaise, Co Cavan

    We have just two paddocks left to graze on the farm and we will stretch these across five to six days. After this we will be indoors full-time.

    Conditions have been very wet and we’ve been allocating 8kg of grass per head per day.

    Despite the rainfall we’ve received, ground conditions have held up well and we’ve little damage done to ground.

    The first paddocks closed have covers up to 1,200kg DM/ha, but we won’t be re-grazing these.

    Silage quality is very good at 78% DMD, and cows are still milking well off of it. This grass will be worth more to us in spring than it is now.

    Stocking rate (cows/ha) 2.28

    Growth rate (kg/day) 18

    Average farm cover (kg/ha) 723

    Yield (l/cow) 13.5

    Fat % 5.58

    Protein% 4.1

    Milk solids (kg/cow) 1.34

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 3

    Colm O’Leary – Donoughmore, Co Cork

    We are out full-time and hope to be until 1 December. Stocking rate is low as we sold empty cows during the drought and we also have begun drying off.

    We built a bank of grass when the growth came to try and have a cheap back end after an expensive summer.

    Ground conditions are very good, with only some muddying at gaps. We grazed lighter covers last week when conditions were wet.

    We are going to skin clover paddocks now and leave old pasture with heavy covers until last. If this gets a little damaged, we don’t mind as it is earmarked for reseeding next year.

    Stocking rate (cows/ha) 1.9

    Growth rate (kg/day) 25

    Average farm cover (kg/ha) 851

    Yield (l/cow) 14.78

    Fat % 5.62

    Protein% 4.39

    Milk solids (kg/cow) 1.52

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 3.5

    Peter Brophy– Paulstown, Co Kilkenny

    We are out by day and in by night. Seventy-five per cent of the farm is closed up and we are hoping to extend the remaining grass out to 1 December.

    Ground conditions are tricky, though we haven’t received the heavy rain most of the country has seen.

    Cows had to remain indoors on Sunday due to heavy rain. We’re using strip wires and spur roads to minimise damage as much as possible. We will start drying off cows next week.

    Empties will be milked on until Christmas and will be dried and fattened then. Some new sheds and slurry storage currently ongoing have delayed the start of drying off.

    Stocking rate (cows/ha) 3.5

    Growth rate (kg/day) 27

    Average farm cover (kg/ha) 874

    Yield (l/cow) 15.2

    Fat % 5.6

    Protein% 4.26

    Milk solids (kg/cow) 1.55

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 4