The average growth rate on farms recording grass measurements on PastureBase Ireland (PBI) for the past week was 48kg DM/ha. A growth rate of 72kgDM/ha was recorded for the same period last year.

Low overnight temperatures and low rainfall levels can be blamed for the poor growth.

Some farms around the country recorded a rainfall of 5ml to 6ml between 19 and 20 April and got a good jump in growth, with temperatures hitting the mid-teens over the weekend.

The rain forecast for this weekend will be welcomed by many, especially those who have had no rain since late March, which has seen growth rates remain low.

It is very important to walk the farm at least every five days in order to get a true picture of the grass situation.

In a lot of cases there is a hole in the wedge where regrowths on grazed paddocks have been very slow.

If this is the case, you must take action early to avoid grazing light covers and going through ground too fast.

Don’t let average farm cover fall below 550kg DM/ha.

Reduce demand to match growth by bringing ground stopped for silage back into the rotation, increase concentrates or feed high-quality bales.

When following with fertiliser in the coming weeks, target low-index soils with phosphorous and potash where allowances permit. Spread sulphur little and often.

Sward watch

  • Target a pre-grazing cover of 1,400 to 1,500kg DM/ha.
  • Avoid dropping average farm cover below 550kg DM/ha.
  • Walk the farm every five days to monitor grass growth, as things can change rapidly at this time of year.
  • Target a cover of 160-170kg DM/LU on dairy farms or 18-20 days ahead on beef.
  • Target 100 units of nitrogen per acre by 1 May.
  • Dairy farmers

    Caroline O’Sullivan – Teagasc Curtins Cork

    As a result of poor growth, cows are grazing higher covers than we would like, to slow down the rotation. The cows are currently grazing covers of 1,800kg DM/ha and will be going into a cover of 1,600kg DM/ha in the next few days. Slow regrowths caused a hole in the wedge with the next few paddocks only having a cover of 900kgDM/ha. Graze-outs have been good and we are hitting around 4.2cm on the heavier covers. We are reseeding some paddocks this week with an Abergain and Aberchoice mix. We will be using AberAce and AberLasting clover and the multi-species swards will include plantain, chicory, red clover and timothy.

  • Stocking rate (cows/ha): 3.85
  • Growth rate (kg/day): 63
  • Average farm cover (kg/ha): 726
  • Yield (L/cow/day): 27.5
  • Fat %: 4.37
  • Protein %: 3.61
  • Milk solids (kg/cow): 2.26
  • Supplement fed (kg/cow/day): 1
  • Liam Budds – Kinsalabeg, Co Waterford

    Due to the lack of rain I slowed up the end of my first rotation and grazed a few heavy covers that I would usually cut for bales. Pre-grazing covers at the minute are around 2,200-2,300kg DM/ha but graze-outs have been excellent. I have around 10 days of covers between 1,500-2,000kg DM/ha ahead of the cows, after that regrowth on grazed paddocks have been very slow. If we get the forecast rain and I see a jump in growth rates I will bale up the remaining heavy covers and try get back to a pre-grazing cover of 1,400-1,500kgDM/ha. I went with 40 units of nitrogen per acre across the whole farm 10 days ago. I started breeding on Monday.

  • Stocking rate (cows/ha) : 3.25
  • Growth rate (Kg/day): 38
  • Average farm cover (kg/ha): 790
  • Yield (L/cow/day): 26.5
  • Fat %: 4.07
  • Protein %: 3.65
  • Milk solids (kg/cow): 2.1
  • Supplement fed (kg/cow/day): 3
  • Padraig Keane – Kilcormac, Offaly

    We plan to start breeding on Monday 3 May with both the cows and the heifers. We will be bringing the heifers back from an outfarm which will push up the stocking rate a little bit more.

    We did a full herd pre-breeding scan two weeks ago and treated around 10 cows. We plan to rescan the treated cows again at the end of this week. We are following the cows with 23 units of protected urea and we will reduce nitrogen applications once the clover gets going.

    We plan to do our first-cut silage in early June and this will be our first year doing pit silage as we built a new silage slab this spring.

  • Stocking rate (cows/ha): 3
  • Growth rate (Kg/day): 74
  • Average farm cover (kg/ha): 662
  • Yield (L/cow/day): 28.7
  • Fat %: 4.33
  • Protein %: 3.66
  • Milk solids (kg/cow): 2.36
  • Supplement fed (kg/cow/day): 3
  • Beef farmers

    Ger McSweeney – Millstreet, Co Cork

    It looked like we had turned a corner last week with warmer days but it has since turned to northerly winds and we are back to grass frost at night which has a negative effect on growth.

    We could do with some milder, softer weather to kick things on. Last weekend we had around 8mm of rain which was needed. Ground that was really wet in March is not needing moisture.

    In saying that, cattle are content at grass and both grass quality and dry matter are excellent at the moment.

    I have been feeding some baled silage to slow down the rotation slightly as we have started the second rotation and ground that has been grazed over the last fortnight is slow to come back.

  • System: Suckler to beef
  • Soil type: Variable

  • Farm cover (kg DM/ha): 791
  • Growth (kg DM/ha/day): 39
  • Demand (kg DM/ha/day): 42
  • Martin Keating – Westport, Co Mayo

    Grazing has been going really well over the past few weeks. The 44 yearling heifers are in two groups and currently entering covers of between 1,200kgDM/ha and 1,300kgDM/ha. They are cleaning paddocks out really well which will be a benefit for the next round.

    The last of the slurry went out this week on recently grazed paddocks. I have four paddocks marked to take out for silage and these have been topped up with a further 35 units of nitrogen.

    While it looks like there is not much grass on the farm, I am learning to trust the PastureBase figures more all the time and the stock are benefiting from this as they are grazing better-quality grass more consistently.

  • System: Dairy calf to beef
  • Soil type: Heavy
  • Farm cover (kg DM/ha): 824
  • Growth (kg DM/ha/day): 41
  • Demand (kg DM/ha/day): 47
  • Declan Marren – Thrive farm, Co Tipperary

    Grass growth is currently matching demand on farm. Typically on a dairy-calf-to-beef farm, spring growth would be well ahead of demand. This time last year, we were taking out excess paddocks as baled silage but there is no excess so far this year.

    The yearling cattle started the second rotation this week. Grass quality is really good and stock are entering covers of around 1,400kgDM/ha. Ground conditions are excellent and grass utilisation and graze-outs are very good.

    The oldest batches of calves are out at grass at this stage and are on the point of weaning. They will enter paddocks with lower covers for the next few weeks and the yearling cattle will be used to mop up after them as required.

  • System: Dairy calf to beef
  • Soil type: Mostly dry
  • Farm cover (kg DM/ha): 852
  • Growth (kg DM/ha/day): 41
  • Demand (kg DM/ha/day): 41