The forecast for the weekend is for things to remain dry but cold. Elodie Ruelle’s MoSt Grass Growth Prediction Model (map on the right below) sees a further dip in growth rates for the coming week due to lower temperatures.
As many farmers have just started or are due to start the second rotation, this reduction in growth rates will mean it’s time to reassess the plan.
A weekly farm walk will tell you how growth has been on your farm.
The average farm cover must not fall below 550kgDM/ha as this will result in a shortage of grass during the second rotation.
Demand is high on farms as cows and drystock have been turned out to grass.
Where demand is higher than growth, the average farm cover (AFC) will fall each day. Matching demand with growth will stop your AFC falling further. While the focus is still on keeping grass in the diet, reducing demand can be done by introducing more concentrate or silage to the diet.
Over the last couple of weeks, fertiliser has been topped up on farms as many target 70 units of nitrogen per acre for the first week in April. As we head into April it is worth targeting compound fertilisers with phosphorous for the next application. Phosphorous is vital for plant development and will give grass a kickstart when temperatures rise in the coming weeks.
Barry Reilly – Teagasc Ballyhaise
Up to Wednesday, we had 88% of the cows calved and 76% of the farm grazed. There is a cover of 1,000 – 1,250 on the first few paddocks grazed. Cows will start grazing these paddocks in the next week in order to keep on top of grass quality. It is looking like we won’t get to finish the first rotation.
Any paddocks that are not grazed will be cut for silage at the first opportunity. Getting these paddocks back into the wedge fast will be very important as we have 35% of area taken out for reseeding because of a new trial.
We will start spraying off for reseeding once temperatures lift again.
Stocking rate (cows/ha): 2
Growth rate (kg/day): 30
Average farm cover (kg/ha): 800
Yield (L/cow/day): 27
Fat %: 4.68
Protein %: 3.43
Milk solids (kg/cow): 2.25
Supplement fed (kg/cow/day): 3
Philip Donohue – Goresbridge, Co Carlow
The second rotation started on Wednesday. We are feeding 4kg of dairy nuts per cow at the minute as we are budgeting for a low growth rate this week due to the low temperatures. We are avoiding putting in silage and don’t want the average farm cover to fall too low. Once growth increases we will go back to 2kg/cow/day and will also stop some paddocks for silage. On Monday we tail-painted all the cows and began recording pre-breeding heats. Last week we went with a bag per acre of protected urea, 38 units of nitrogen and seven units of sulphur. We now have 70 units per acre of nitrogen out across the whole farm.
Stocking rate (cows/ha): 2.85
Growth rate (kg/day): 64
Average farm cover (kg/ha): 945
Yield (L/cow/day): 27.5
Fat %: 4.41
Protein %: 3.72
Milk solids (kg/cow): 2.3
Supplement fed (kg/cow/day): 4
Fergal Coughlan – Clonakilty Ag College
The average farm cover on the grass plus clover with 150kg nitrogen allowance per ha per year is 595 kg DM/ha. We started the second round on 30 March. Cows are now being allocated grass on a 24- or 36-hour basis. The cows are grazing covers between 1,200 and 1,500 kg DM/ha. Utilisation has been excellent since this dry spell began and we are hitting residuals of 3.5-4cm. As we get closer to the start of the breeding season, the cows will be metri-checked this week. We metri-check to identify any cows with an infection post-calving. We plan to start breeding during the last week of April.
Stocking rate (cows/ha): 3.22
Growth rate (kg/day): 49
Average farm cover (kg/ha): 595
Yield (L/cow/day): 26.9
Fat %: 4.37
Protein %: 3.56
Milk solids (kg/cow): 2.13
Supplement fed (kg/cow/day): 2
Dwayne Stanley – Thurles, Co Tipperary
I will have all stock out by next week. Currently half of the spring herd, which is about 30 cows and calves, are at grass as well as 57 yearling contract-rearing dairy heifers.
The weanlings were out grazing the silage ground but came back in when they finished on it.
There are just four cows left to calve; these are later calvers. I am starting to AI the 23 replacement heifers this week and breeding for the cows will start on 20 April with a Simmental and Aubrac stock bull.
I have 80 acres of silage ground closed since 1 April. It got 100 units of nitrogen in the form of urea as well as three bags of 0-7-30/acre.
System: Suckler/calf to beef
Soil type: Variable
Farm cover (kg DM/ha): 1,279
Growth (kg DM/ha/day): 56
Demand (kg DM/ha/day): 26
Trevor Boland – Dromard, Co Sligo
The last of the cows and calves went out to grass last weekend. There are currently three groups of cows and calves and one group of replacement heifers on the farm. All slurry has been spread on the silage ground and fertiliser is now out for silage as well. The grazing ground had straight nitrogen earlier in spring and I have just gone with two bags per acre of 18-6-12 this week.
Growth has been slow, the temperatures over the last week or 10 days have been very low, and before that ground was quite wet. Hopefully growth will kick on now as although I have a good bank of grass ahead of stock, it won’t take long to get through it now that everything is outside.
System: Suckler and beef farm
Soil type: Variable
Farm cover (kg DM/ha): 1,548
Growth (kg DM/ha/day): 16
Demand (kg DM/ha/day): 50
Declan Marren – THRIVE demo farm, Cashel
Ground conditions have improved over the last 10 days. This has allowed cattle to achieve really good graze-outs which is important for the next rotation. There are some heavier covers still to be grazed on the first rotation but dry conditions mean this is being done with good success. Silage ground was grazed into late autumn and so is not being grazed in spring prior to closing. This is to try to avoid having to make too much surplus silage off the grazing ground early in the season. The oldest batches of calves are now out by day and back in the shed at night. Small paddocks with good shelter just behind the sheds are ideal for this. All calves for 2021 are on farm at this stage.
System: Dairy calf to beef
Soil type: Variable
Farm cover (kg DM/ha): 1,062
Growth (kg DM/ha/day): 36
Demand (kg DM/ha/day): 32