Farmers need to get cows out on grass as much as possible rather than waiting for ideal grazing conditions.

This was the simple message delivered by senior Teagasc staff this week.

“Too many farmers are waiting for perfect grazing ground before leaving cows out. There is no such thing as perfection. Farmers need to get cows out for at least four or five hours a day,” said Joe Patton, head of dairy knowledge transfer.

Cows will eat 6kg to 7kg of fresh grass in four or five hours, Patton pointed out.

Getting cows out for a few hours every day not only reduces the workload for farmers, but it also delivers a lift in milk yields and milk solids.

The potential for damage to paddocks can be managed, Patton maintained.

“We fully accept that conditions are challenging. However, there is a difference between poaching and marking. Where cows are marking ground, that is OK, the paddocks will recover,” he insisted.

Patton’s views were echoed in a Teagasc webinar on Tuesday night last, where farmers were again urged to get cows and cattle out as much as possible. “Don’t be waiting for that week or 10 days’ dry weather, because it’s probably not coming,” James Dunne of Teagasc Ballyhaise told the 500 farmers who logged on to the webinar.

Dunne warned that issues such as animal performance, body condition score loss and breeding problems had to be considered where cows were not out on grass.

Meanwhile, Donal Patton of Teagasc Ballyhaise said farmers had to get moving on grazing, and should do so on drier sections of the farm.

Make a start

“You just have to start. Obviously, I know there are a good number of people on this call with varying soil types, but within most farms there is some area where you have a chance, so go there and start,” he said.