Average grass growth rates dropped a bit this week to 61kg/day but with widespread rain throughout the country over the past week, the prospect for good growth into next week is looking better.

Some farmers who were tight for grass last week remain tight now because growth has been poor. This is due to a combination of a lack of moisture, harsh conditions, or both.

In such cases, decisions can only be made based on the facts available, and if extra supplement is needed then so be it.

A small bit of supplement now can save a lot of supplement later as, when average farm cover gets too low, it takes longer for the farm to recover.

Think of a farm of grass as being like a farm of solar panels. The more solar panels you have, the more sunlight will be captured and the more energy there will be available.

The grass leaf is like a solar panel, using photosynthesis for energy production and sending that energy to the roots. If the amount of grass on the farm gets depleted, you have depleted the energy source.

Of course it’s a fine line, and having too much grass is almost as bad as not having enough grass.

By now, most grass swards are getting stemmy and a bit of a butt is beginning to appear at the base of swards as the plant wants to go to seed. This is particularly noticeable on fields that may have had reduced nitrogen so far this year.

I see some farmers are out topping after grazing. It does a job but it has consequences. Firstly, topping subsequently reduces grass growth by up to 5% because it nips off the regrowth that the plant used all of its energy to produce.

I don’t know anyone that can afford to grow less feed this year.

Secondly, topping is expensive, as the cost of fuel has gone up as have maintenance costs for tractors and machinery, plus labour costs.

The final point is that many farmers only do a superficial top, meaning they aren’t actually correcting grass quality and are instead just making the fields look nice and neat.

The best policy is to highlight the worst quality paddocks on the farm and target them for silage when a surplus next appears.

This way, there is zero waste of grass and residuals are corrected, meaning the subsequent grass quality will be much better.

Sward Watch

  • Average grass growth rates are relatively good at the moment, but some farmers remain short of grass and need to supplement until growth catches up.
  • Average grass growth for the coming week is predicted to be 67kg/ha/day.
  • Some paddocks are starting to get stemmy now – it’s better to target these paddocks for silage rather than topping.
  • Farmers

    Darren Healy – Redcross, Co Wicklow

    Cows are currently on 4.5-5kg of ration and 2kg of silage to slow down the rotation length. Cows had started entering low covers and covers had started to head out with stress.

    It generally happens this time of the year and it is only for a week or 10 days. There has been a good deal of cool and wet conditions, so some warmer, drier weather would suit grass here.

    We will likely be baling paddocks again in two weeks, but that’s just how it is. We’re following cows with 15-18 units of protected urea on an 18-day round.

    Ten acres of ground with a high clover content haven’t received chemical N since early May as a trial.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha): 4.34

    Growth Rate (kg/day): 65

    Average Farm Cover (kg/cow): 151

    Yield (l/cow:) 27

    Fat %: 4.15

    Protein%: 3.62

    Milk Solids (kg/cow): 2.16

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day): 4.5

    David Gannon – Craughwell, Co Galway

    We’re just coming back in to surplus now, with a dip in growth last week. Grass has taken a bounce again in the last few days. We’ve one paddock to take out now again for bales.

    Quality is a real battle this time of the year, grass was stressed with the harsh weather and it wanted to head out. You really have to be walking the farm every five days.

    Some 1,400kg covers aren’t allowing cows to fill themselves fully due to stem in the sward, so an eye has to be kept on residuals. Watery slurry is being targeted at the over sown clover swards.

    We’re on our third grazing with these, grazing them at 1,200kg DM/ha max.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha): 3.96

    Growth Rate (kg/day): 82

    Average Farm Cover (kg/cow): 175

    Yield (l/cow): 25

    Fat %: 4.46

    Protein%: 3.66

    Milk Solids (kg/cow): 2.1

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day): 1.6

    Brendan Horan – Teagasc Curtins, Co Cork

    Farm cover is 536kg DM/ha and growth has recovered to 50kg/day with recent rainfall and aftergrass back in the rotation.

    The milking block is back in the rotation, with cows grazing the mutispecies sward trial paddocks at 1,600 kg DM/ha on a 21-day rotation. Cows are not being supplemented.

    The herd have been fed 150kg of concentrate in total this year. Grass allocation is 16kg DM per cow as 50% of the herd are first lactation.

    We’re targeting residuals of 4-4.5cm, with clover content of the paddocks being 15-20%. Paddocks have grown on average 5t DM/ha this year, with a range of 3.8t to 6.2t DM/ha on multispecies paddocks.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha): 2.73

    Growth Rate (kg/day): 50

    Average Farm Cover (kg/cow): 196

    Yield (l/cow): 19.4

    Fat %: 4.48

    Protein%: 3.63

    Milk Solids (kg/cow): 1.65

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day): 0