This has been another funny year for grass growth on the farm.

We started out with a poor spring due to lots of rain, resulting in cattle turnout being delayed. Then the weather improved at the end of April and into May. Grass growth took off with a massive burst. Grass growth is typically good during May, but this year has been exceptional.

I have been measuring grass growth with a plate meter for over 10 years and grass growth during the month of May usually surpasses every other month. This year it broke all records. My growth for May has averaged over 100kg dry matter (DM) per hectare per day. With demand of around 60kg/day I have had a massive over supply of grass.

It has been a difficult task to try and keep some kind of control over the whole situation. I have been cutting paddocks for bales almost every week.

I try to spread this out so that I have paddocks coming back into the rotation at a steady pace. When you look at the paddocks, you might think I should have cut more, but if you cut everything then you have nothing left. Even if it is a bit stemmy, you still need something for the cattle to eat. The paddocks I grazed that had a lot of stem, needed topped afterwards to make sure that there would be better quality grass the next time around.

With having such trouble keeping the grass under control I stopped sowing artificial fertiliser. When I had time, I tried to spread some watery slurry on the paddocks that were cut.


But despite my best efforts, within one week or so everything ran to seedhead. Even paddocks that were cut, shot up and went straight to seed. I assume that the grass felt under stress and wanted to produce a seedhead before it died. In effect, everything was conspiring to make it exceedingly difficult to manage grass and keep some quality in front of the cattle.

Then into June and grass growth has fallen off a cliff. It has gone from massive growth to almost nothing. Paddocks that have been cut have not came back. When I measured some of the earlier cut paddocks, there was actually less grass on them than the week previously, even though they had not been grazed.

In other years, there is always a dip in June, but this year has been exceptionally pronounced. Thankfully, I still have paddocks that should have been cut, but I just had not got round to them.

Grass quality

I am now grazing these and while the grass quality is poor at least there is something to keep the cattle content. If I had originally cut everything that needed cut, then I would have had to rehouse some cattle.

This has got me wondering why this year has been so difficult.

May was reasonably warm and there was still plenty of rain.

Then there was lots of fertiliser that went out at the end of April and start of May. All in all, they were perfect conditions for grass growth.

With such good growth, the grass seems to have sucked up all the available nitrogen and given I had stopped applying artificial fertiliser, the growth seems to have just stalled. Added to that is the exceptionally chilly weather and you have a ‘perfect storm’.

One of the main benefits of grass measuring is that I have seen this potential deficit coming for a few weeks, and I have been proactive in trying to get back on course.

I am back sowing a little artificial fertiliser and I am not cutting as many paddocks.

There are still some paddocks being taken out for bales to try and get a little quality back into the grazing platform, but I am being a little more cautious.

Every year it seems to be a battle to manage grass. It looks like the grass has won for now, but hopefully with a bit of warmer weather we can get things back under control.