It has been another stop/start grazing week on many farms as stock were kept in to avoid damaging waterlogged soils. The forecast for settled weather coming this weekend will be welcomed by all.

For some this settled weather will be their first chance to get cattle out to grass and it is important to walk the farm and assess ground conditions in paddocks with the best accessibility.

On other farms where grazing has been possible lower covers are becoming scarce and maintaining residuals on heaver covers poses a challenge.

Continuing to practice on/off grazing where necessary, using different access points and using backing fences will all help reduce chances of damaging paddocks.

The arrival of more settled weather also brings with it a chance to get out with some fertiliser.

Many farmers have had fertiliser bought and delivered since the start of the year but haven’t had an opportunity to get out and apply it. Going with fertiliser soon on parts of the farm that didn’t get any slurry will help to kick-start growth.

Farmers are planning to spread 23-35 units of protected urea which will match the 20 units of nitrogen applied in 2,500 gallons of slurry per acre where low emission slurry spreading equipment was used.

Grass courses

Our Irish Farmers Journal/Macra Skillnet Grassland management courses will be starting in March contact John Crowe on 0860817459 or for more info.

  • Target paddocks with covers of 800-1,000kgDM for grazing first.
  • Use temporary fences and avoid going back over areas already grazed using backing fences and spur roads.
  • When on/off grazing (cows out for two to three hours), restrict silage in the shed so cows have an appetite when they go to grass.
  • Leaving out young stock/dry cows will help get area grazed. Give them allocations of grass for 12-24 hours and back-fence.
  • Spread 23 units of nitrogen where no slurry has been spread yet this year.
  • Dairy farms

    Barry Reilly, Teagasc Ballyhaise, Co Cavan

    We were due to start calving on 10 February and have just gone over 50% calved. We have a very high percentage of heifer calves on the ground as a result of the sexed semen fixed-time AI protocol we used. Cow condition pre-calving is good but in some cases too good.

    We have had a few cases of milk fever and now any cow over fourth lactation gets a calcium bolus once she goes into the calving shed. Grazing conditions are difficult. We are targeting 10kgDM per day with a grazing after morning and evening milking. We are running behind target but will hopefully make up the difference once conditions improve and more cows go to grass.

  • Average farm cover (kg/ha): 980
  • Growth rate (kg/day): 4
  • Concentrate (kg/cow/day): 4
  • Silage (kg/cow/day): 1.5
  • Percentage grazed (%): 4
  • Jamie Kealy, Tullow, Co Carlow

    We were due to start calving on 1 February and to date we have 96 out of 120 calved. This spring, we modified our calf shed and put in an automatic feeder which has been a huge time saver.

    Grazing has been tough but we targeted lower covers on dryer parts of the farm in order to get cows out with minimum damage.

    We are using backing fences to avoid travelling over grazed ground. We have been out by day and when possible cows get out at night.

    Getting cows out has been another huge labour-saving exercise. The amount of silage in the diet is changing daily depending on how much grass cows have got.

  • Average farm cover (kg/ha): 1,000
  • Growth rate (kg/day): 15
  • Concentrate (kg/cow/day): 3.5
  • Silage (kg/cow/day): 2-5
  • Percentage grazed (%): 20
  • Gordon Swanton, Adamstown, Co Wexford

    Calving has been going well here since we kicked off in early February and we have a little over 50% calved now. We have been getting cows out to grass as much as possible given the wet conditions.

    In order to avoid damaging ground, cows are grazing smaller paddocks and in some cases we are using spur roadways to get to the back of paddocks. Silage quality is very good this year which is helping to keep cows on the right track even when we can’t get them out. We have spread slurry on half of the farm at 2,500 gallons per acre and so far we have 20 units of protected urea out on one-third of the farm.

  • Average farm cover (kg/ha): 1,020
  • Growth rate (kg/day): 10
  • Concentrate (kg/cow/day): 5
  • Silage (kg/cow/day): 5-9
  • Percentage grazed (%): 17
  • Beef farms

    Martin & Marie Keating, Doon, Westport, Co Mayo

    For once we seemed to escape the worst of the weather this week. The forecast for next week looks quite good and we plan to turn out three groups of 15 yearling heifers in the first half of the week. There are a number of paddocks with covers around 1,000kgDM/ha which will be grazed first.

    Up to this point only a small amount of slurry has been spread and no fertiliser has gone out. Next week I will spread half a bag/acre of protected urea on any pasture ground that will not receive slurry.

    I don’t think we have missed any growth so far by not having nitrogen out, ground is just starting to warm up.

  • System: Dairy calf to beef
  • Soil type: Variable
  • Farm cover (kg DM/ha): 894
  • Growth (kg DM/ha/day): 6
  • Demand (kg DM/ha/day): 0
  • Willie Treacy, Hackballscross, Co Louth

    We are about three-quarters the way through calving, it has been a busy few weeks but all going quite well. I have been planning to get a grass walk done but other things have taken preference up to now.

    We still have no stock out, but I hope to get weanlings out this weekend as the weather looks quite dry for the week ahead. We had a lot of rain this week but ground is quick to dry out this time of year if it gets a chance.

    I have no fertiliser spread to date. I like to have cattle graze off covers and then I’ll go in with nitrogen at that point and I find I get a better response from it.

  • System: Suckler to beef
  • Soil type: Free-draining
  • Farm cover (kg DM/ha): -
  • Growth (kg DM/ha/day): -
  • Demand (kg DM/ha/day): 0
  • Shaun Diver, Tullamore Farm, Co Offaly

    Calving is progressing well. We have 33 calved at this stage so about a third of the way there. The majority of calves are good and lively and get up and suck within a few minutes which is a real positive.

    I hope to start getting the first-born calves out to grass on Friday. They have been dehorned and have had a pneumonia vaccination so they are good to go. They will spend the weekend in fields around the yard just to make sure they are ok before going up to the out-farm early next week.

    The ewe lambs are still at grass but will be housed next week in preparation for lambing. They are due from 1 April.

  • System: Suckler to beef
  • Soil type: Variable
  • Farm cover (kg DM/ha): 618
  • Growth (kg DM/ha/day): 6
  • Demand (kg DM/ha/day): 3