Average grass growth rates for the last week were just over 50kg/day, but the prediction for the coming week is that they will fall to between 30kg to 40kg per day. Such a drop is not unexpected – we are now entering October and nights are getting longer and colder. The first of the winter fires were lit in many farmhouses this week, that’s a sure sign that high grass growth rates are coming to an end.

For most farmers, this is not good news as grass covers are lower than normal. This column was pessimistic about the prospects of good autumn growth rates just before the rain came in early September. Then we were optimistic when grass growth reached 60kg/day on some farms 10 days ago, but we’re back now to being pessimistic again. Alas, the good is gone out of the grazing year.

The issue for most farmers is that average farm cover is around 850kg/ha which is about 200kg/ha behind target. Cows and cattle are normally wading through grass at this stage, which means there is a buffer or wedge of grass that they can eat into when growth rates fall below demand. With that not there this year, it means farmers will have to feed heavy in order to avoid depleting average farm cover altogether.

The key target remains the closing cover on 1 December. Whether or not animals stay out until then or not doesn’t matter; 1 December is just a common date everyone can work off. For most farmers, the target is to be at 700kg to 900kg at that stage. Most are very close to this figure now.

As weather and ground conditions get more challenging, maintaining a good cleanout while feeding a lot of supplement gets more difficult. Using 12-hour allocations will be important. The last round of grazing will start from next week on. You don’t want to be closing up high-clover paddocks too early because there shouldn’t be too much grass on these over the winter. The first paddocks to be closed are generally the ones that will be grazed in early March, so think about where you want cows to be then.

Sward watch

Average farm cover is between 200kg and 300kg/ha behind target according to PastureBase data, meaning farmers will have to feed extra supplement for longer.

Grass growth rates are predicted to fall to 30kg to 40kg per day from this week on as colder and wetter weather takes hold. Farmers will be closing up paddocks for the winter from next week on as the final round of grazing begins. Plan carefully what paddocks are to be closed first, leaving high-clover and wet paddocks towards the end.

The final date for spreading slurry this year is 8 October.

Shane Horgan

Carrignavar, Co Cork

Cover is lifting all the time, but we are still 100kg off target for the stocking rate we are at.

Cows have been getting some palm kernel and no silage to help reduce demand. Twelve cull cows will be sold in the next week as well to help bring demand down further.

We are emptying the last of the slurry out of tanks on to ‘hungry’ paddocks, having blanket spread the farm back in early September.

Approximately one-quarter of the paddocks have a high clover content, and these have grown as much if not more grass as the rest of the farm using just 125kg chemical N/ha.

Stocking rate (cows/ha) 2.97

Growth rate (kg/day) 43

Average farm cover (kg/ha) 935

Yield (l/cow) 16.25

Fat % 5.68

Protein% 4.31

Milk solids (kg/cow) 1.67

Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 4

Brian Hogan

Horse & Jockey, Co Tipperary

We are still feeding 2kg of silage to help bring down demand. If anything, we are pleasantly surprised with what having a lower farm cover is doing. Cows are performing better, we are getting better cleanouts with cows entering paddocks at 1,600 to 1,700 kg DM/ha and we are getting better re-growths on these paddocks as well. Cows are receiving half dairy nuts and half soya hulls as we like to keep fibre in the diet as grass dry matter starts to drop. The round has been pushed out to 33 to 34 days. We have some autumn reseeds coming back in in the next week. These were sown in early August, with 2kg of clover mixed in with the perennials.

Stocking rate (cows/ha) 2.81

Growth rate (kg/day) 50

Average farm cover (kg/ha) 848

Yield (l/cow) 19

Fat % 5.13

Protein% 4.05

Milk solids (kg/cow) 1.79

Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 2

Sean Cummins

Kilmacthomas, Co Waterford

We’d prefer to be well over 300kg DM/cow by now, but we are building cover by going in with concentrates and buffer feeding. Cows are getting 3kg of silage/wholecrop as they are coming out of the parlour in the morning.

Hopefully we can remove this soon with our rotation length back at 29 days and we will hopefully push this out to the mid 30s. Cows were pregnancy diagnosed using the milk test, with just 6% showing up empty after 13 weeks of breeding. These cows were scanned to confirm them not in-calf. We are weighing up our options whether to milk them on or sell them now to reduce demand.

Stocking rate (cows/ha) 3.75

Growth rate (kg/day) 50

Average farm cover (kg/ha) 935

Yield (l/cow) 17.5

Fat % 5.01

Protein% 4.07

Milk solids (kg/cow) 1.64

Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 4