Those who regularly walk and measure grass have noticed a bounce in growth over the last few days.

The situation has finally changed, and with power in the ground, one would be optimistic of growth rates of 60kg/day and higher over the next few weeks.

This gives a promise of a half-decent couple of months ahead in terms of having plenty of grass in the diet and not having to feed silage or high levels of meal.

Now, while it looks promising, we are not there yet. Most farms are still well behind target for grass and even though growth rates are good, covers still need to catch up, so most should continue to feed hard for another while.

A grass budget is essential because, believe it or not, there is a risk that some farms will have too much grass in a few weeks.

The last thing you want to be doing is feeding heavily now only to be having to cut surplus paddocks.

Every farm is different and at a different stage of recovery, but when average farm cover hits 700kg/ha and greater, growth rates really take off and it could be more like mid-May than mid-September.

Temperatures are set to get a bit colder, so it’s hard to know how long the good growing conditions will last, but soil temperatures are good and nitrogen doesn’t seem to be lacking either.

After a lot of rain, some heavier soils are beginning to get wet and will need to be minded. The last grazing rotation will be starting in about two weeks, so be thinking about when best to close up wet fields.

In most cases there is a better chance of grazing late in the autumn than early in spring so I’d be inclined to graze soon and again in late October, but it all depends on weather. Those on heavy soils need to grab grazings when they can.

With the big burst in growth rates there is a risk of both bloat and nitrate poisoning. Both are nasty things to happen, with dead cows the first obvious sign.

If silage is in the diet the risk is lessened as their pasture intakes are curtailed. Keeping cows on 12-hour breaks is a good way to prevent bloat. Nitrate poisoning is harder to prevent.

Sward watch

  • Grass growth rates are showing signs of good recovery, particularly in the last few days, with good power in the ground as soil temperatures are high and nitrogen and moisture are not lacking.
  • Every farmer should do a feed budget so as to plan how much feed is required on a week-to-week basis in order to hit the target grass cover and avoid having too much or too little grass.
  • Heavy soils are wet after a lot of recent rain so shorter breaks may be needed to avoid damage.
  • Farmers

    Bryan Doocey – Lismore, Co Waterford

    Grass has only gone back in to the diet since Monday. We grew next to nothing for six weeks, with cows being heavily supplemented with silage and concentrates.

    The farm has really greened up, and we are back spreading fertiliser after ceasing spreading anything during the drought.

    Ground has been blanket spread with 20 units/ac of straight urea, with the last of it going out today (Wednesday) ahead of the deadline.

    If farm cover improves enough, we would be hoping to pull silage out of the diet next week. Heifers were recently scanned, with 100% of them in-calf. Cows are due to be scanned this week.

    Stocking rate (cows/ha) 3.5

    Growth rate (kg/day) 50

    Average farm cover (kg/ha) 676

    Yield (l/cow) 17.3

    Fat % 5.52

    Protein% 4.2

    Milk solids (kg/cow) 1.75

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 6

    Peter Mongey – Slane, Co Meath

    Silage intake has been pulled to 1-2kg/day as growth rates have risen to normal levels. We maintained a grass intake of 8kg throughout the drought, which held constituents well.

    With more grass in the diet we have seen fat and protein levels rise. The whole farm was blanket spread on 5 September, receiving 1.5 bags/ac of 18-6-12.

    We normally spread closer to the closing period, but we are hoping for background nitrogen.

    We finished a reseed on Tuesday, later than usual, but we hope for good conditions in the next few weeks. It was sprayed off and stitched with 2kg of white clover and 1kg of red clover included.

    Stocking rate (cows/ha) 3.8

    Growth rate (kg/day) 62

    Average farm cover (kg/ha) 709

    Yield (l/cow) 20.5

    Fat % 4.92

    Protein% 3.88

    Milk solids (kg/cow) 1.85

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 4.5

    Barry Reilly – Teagasc Ballyhaise, Co Cavan

    Cows are heading in to covers now of 1,800kg DM/ha, and we’re grazing down to 4.5cm still.

    Our growth has dipped back from in the mid 90s a few weeks ago due to the heavy and prolonged rain. We are now using 12-hour strip wires, as our wetter ground is quite sticky.

    The forecast dry spell of weather is very welcome here. Clover content is high across swards, which has been a massive saver on chemical N use this year. Our rotation length is now pushed out to 36 days.

    The red clover we sowed on the 14ac outfarm is ready for mowing if we get a few dry days to let it wilt.

    Stocking rate (cows/ha) 2.28

    Growth rate (kg/day) 55

    Average farm cover (kg/ha) 730

    Yield (l/cow) 19

    Fat % 4.67

    Protein% 3.92

    Milk solids (kg/cow) 1.65

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 2