Many farmers will be supplementing priority cattle at grass with some level of concentrate feeding at this stage of the year. Due to prolonged periods of wet weather, grass dry matter (DM) has dropped significantly, which will have drastically reduced the total energy intake of the grazing animal.
Farmers across the country are reporting good levels of grass on-farm, however utilisation is very poor in areas and cattle are getting through grass at a rate of knots.
When ground conditions are poor, feeding meal in the paddock is only going to add to what are already difficult conditions. Thrive dairy calf-to-beef farmer Martin Keating in Westport, Co Mayo, is able to overcome this problem thanks to a recent investment in farm roadways.
Martin currently has a group of 44 spring 2020-born Angus heifers at grass. They have been receiving a kilo of meal throughout their first grazing season. Over the past six weeks or so, Martin has been able to offer this meal to calves on the farm roadways, to protect the grass sward from poaching.
The cattle are trained into the system in a couple of days and it doesn’t take much time at all to get them in
Alongside this, Martin is also feeding finishing heifers 3kg meal at grass. These animals are averaging around the 500kg mark, which makes feeding at grass even more challenging. The construction of additional farm roadways two years ago means the heifers can run back to the shed in the yard for their meal every day.
“Prior to having the roadways, this simply wouldn’t have been possible. We would have had to either hold off meal feeding until housing, or actually house cattle earlier than planned. The cattle are trained into the system in a couple of days and it doesn’t take much time at all to get them in.”
Martin has a bale of hay available for heifers in the shed, which they have started to eat a significant amount of over the past couple of weeks. This is increasing the amount of fibre in the diet and slowing down the rate at which grass is going through the cattle.
To hear more about the grazing infrastructure Martin has put in place, and the difference it is making to his farming system, tune in to the Thrive Programme Virtual Open Day on Tuesday 15 September at 8pm on www.farmersjournal.ie/thrive.