We can argue over whether the rain earlier in the week was too cold or too horizontal, but it did improve grass growth.

Growth rates have picked up in recent days but are still well behind what one would expect for the time of year.

Growth rates are expected to increase further over the coming days, averaging over 70kg/day in the southeast but only around 50kg/day in the northwest.

There is little or no surplus grass around and growth rates are matching demand in most instances.

The focus should be to maintain a 20- to 21-day rotation length and achieve a 3.5cm to 4cm residual.

This will ensure really high-quality grass into the latter half of May and into June.

There will be a lot of compensatory growth when the weather does improve, so be prepared to act quickly by removing extra supplement and skipping over paddocks.

However, most farms aren’t in that position just yet.

The nitrogen applied in the last month won’t have been fully utilised but is still available for plant growth. I would also expect an increase in the availability of mineralised soil nitrogen after the weather improves.

Put it this way, on most farms nitrogen is not limiting grass growth and won’t be for a few weeks.

Following with 15 to 20 units of nitrogen per acre after grazing is probably sufficient for most dairy and beef farms to drive grass for May and June.

Sward watch

  • Grass growth is more or less at demand on most farms, so it is maintaining average farm cover.
  • The prospects for growth are better, with a slight improvement in temperatures forecast.
  • Remove the strip wire if at all possible and let cows and cattle into full fields.
  • Try and avoid letting average farm cover drop below 500kg/ha. Feed extra supplement if there is a risk of going lower.
  • Expect a big bounce in growth when conditions improve.
  • Barry Reilly

    Teagasc Ballyhaise, Co Cavan

    The weather is very harsh and grass growth is only just about equal to demand. Monday was a washout and Tuesday was nearly as bad with hailstones and wind. We are back grazing two paddocks which we had skipped over from the first round. We thought we’d get away without them but we’re also lucky to have them. They have a cover of 1,700kg/ha. We are spreading 25 units/acre of protected urea after grazing. We started AI on 1 May which is a little earlier than normal but we are doing a trial on embryo transfer.

  • Stocking rate (cows/ha): 3.96
  • Growth rate (kg/day): 53
  • Average farm cover (kg/cow): 203
  • Yield (l/cow/day): 26.5
  • Fat %: 4.41
  • Protein %: 3.50
  • Milk solids (kg/cow): 2.16
  • Supplement fed (kg/cow/day): 3
  • Joe Deane

    Carrigaline, Co Cork

    We’re holding our own in terms of grass. Growth rate is more or less equal to demand but we had a few good weeks of growth a few weeks ago which is holding to us now. Clean outs are excellent – the best I’ve ever seen. I have one field out for reseeding, it’s getting Abergain, Aberchoice and clover. I’ve 80kgN/ha spread to date, which is less than normal. I’m putting out 21kgN/ha after every round which is about 17 units/acre. About 20% of the farm with good clover is going to get very little nitrogen for the rest of the year.

  • Stocking rate (cows/ha): 3.87
  • Growth rate (kg/day): 55
  • Average farm cover (kg/cow): 178
  • Yield (l/cow/day): 25
  • Fat %: 4.33
  • Protein %: 3.73
  • Milk solids (kg/cow): 2.08
  • Supplement fed (kg/cow/day): 2
  • Robert English

    Tang, Co Westmeath

    It’s cold and harsh and we badly need a bit of kindness in the weather. Having said that cows were lasting well in paddocks, getting an extra grazing where we thought they wouldn’t so dry matters must be very high. We’re grazing covers of 1,000 to 1,100kg/ha but we have ground stopped for silage and only fertilised at half rate so we can go back into that if needs be. We’ll probably graze some of it anyway. It’ll mean we will do a split cut but it’s good to have it. Breeding seems to be going well with a good few cows submitted already.

  • Stocking rate (cows/ha): 4
  • Growth rate (kg/day): 55
  • Average farm cover (kg/cow): 143
  • Yield (l/cow/day): 26.7
  • Fat %: 4.2
  • Protein %: 3.64
  • Milk solids (kg/cow): 2.16
  • Supplement fed (kg/cow/day): 3.5