The rain (most) farmers were hoping for duly arrived. Total rainfall for the last seven days has been high in most places, ranging from over 110mm in Valentia to less than 20mm in Dublin, with the majority of places getting 40mm to 50mm.
West Cork farmers tell me some of the early rain that fell was too heavy to penetrate the soil and just washed off and that smaller quantities that fell later had a better impact.
According to grass growth data in the map opposite, growth rates for the last week averaged 52kg/ha per day while the predicted grass growth rate for the coming week is 68kg per day. In most cases, this is well above demand as many farmers have had to put in extra feed when the growth rate slowed prior to the rain.
Whether or not to keep this feed in or take it out depends on where the farm is in terms of average farm cover. If not measuring, the best proxy for this is the pre-grazing yield. If this is lower than normal then continue feeding until it catches up. If this is on target, then take that extra feed out.
Apart from a lack of grass, the biggest complaint I hear on farms is about grass quality. A combination of very high growth rates in late April and May and then grass getting stressed due to a lack of moisture and, in some cases, a lack of nitrogen has meant there is a lot more stem around than most farmers would like.
Some of this is superficial stem – it looks bad from a distance but it doesn’t really affect what cows are eating, provided the fields were grazed out well in previous rounds.
What is more concerning is a thick butt in the sward accompanied by stem. Topping these fields to the correct height will have an effect worse than taking a 10t crop of silage off the field. It’ll hammer growth plus you’ll be left with the waste grass in big clumps waiting to rot.
Closing and then cutting for silage will have the same effect on growth but there’ll be no waste. Realistically, a combination of actions will be needed to rectify quality but be aware of the impact that mechanical intervention will have on grass growth.
Kildalkey, Co Meath
Stocking rate (cows/ha) 4.85
Growth rate (kg/day) 65
Average farm cover (kg/cow) 135
Yield (l/cow) 19
Fat % 5.5
Milk solids (kg/cow) 1.95
Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 5
Our cover per cow seems low, but we are used to running at that figure for this time of year. The herd is pure Jersey, so our demand is still around the 65kg DM/day mark.
We are split-calving so the autumn-calvers will be dried off in the next month or so, which will ease our demand and allow us to possibly do some reseeding.
We are in the heavier part of Meath, so recent dry weather didn’t affect us too much.
As we are split-calving, we focus a lot on silage quality, with the first cut completed in early May and the second cut recently completed also.
We’ll go for a third cut and possibly a fourth cut as well.
Dunleer, Co Louth
Stocking rate (cows/ha) 4
Growth rate (kg/day) 75
Average farm cover (kg/cow) 142
Yield (l/cow) 23
Fat % 4.3
Milk solids (kg/cow) 1.9
Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 4
We got lots of rain this week which was needed. Growth had slowed and grass looked stressed.
Our rotation length began to speed up so we decided to introduce some zero-grazed grass from the second cut to the cows during milking in order to slow our rotation back to a 21-day round.
We reseeded 15% of the platform at the end of April which we’re glad to have coming back into the rotation now as it left us a bit tight in June when growth slowed.
We’re spreading 30 units of protected urea monthly, except the reseeds which will get 0-7-30 to encourage the clover.
Teagasc Ballyhaise, Co Cavan
Stocking rate (cows/ha) 2.8
Growth rate (kg/day) 65
Average farm cover (kg/cow) 200
Yield (l/cow) 23.5
Fat % 4.05
Milk solids (kg/cow) 1.84
Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 1
Bulling activity has slowed down a lot, which we are pleased to see. Some scanning has been completed, with more to be done this week, so early signs seem good. Heifers are also looking very good, so we are expecting a busy start to calving in 2023. Our pre-grazing yields are 1,300kg at the moment, with cows cleaning out swards well. Clover content is on the rise with each grazing. Our reseeds that were completed in May grew well and we got them grazed tightly before the heavy rain this week, which should help tiller and thicken them up nicely.