Most parts of the country are expected to get between 30mm and 60mm of rain over the coming week. If this materialises, it’ll be some blessing to farmers struggling with a lack of grass.

It won’t solve all problems overnight, but it’ll go a long way to resolving them over the course of a week or so. Most farms need rain, but because most pastures are still green and growing, albeit slowly, there should be a quick enough response in growth rate.

There is usually a good bounce in growth after a prolonged dry spell, provided that rainfall remains consistent for the next few weeks. This should present a good opportunity to correct some of the awful grass quality on farms this year.

At this stage, some mechanical intervention is required on most farms, but because growth has been so poor of late, most stopped topping or pre-mowing which of course is the right thing to do in the circumstances.

I would say don’t resume topping or mowing until there is a surplus, which realistically may not be for two weeks or more depending on how low grass covers have gone.

Nitrogen comes in three forms at this time of year; in a bag, in the soil from soil biology and from clover plants. Each of these nitrogen sources is available for plant growth and should be utilised.

Clover is really coming into its own now and chemical nitrogen should be reduced where clover is present. How much to reduce by depends on how much clover is present. If unsure if clover is actually fixing nitrogen, dig up a few plants and look at the roots.

If little white balls or nodules are on the root tips then it’s fixing N. Estimate the amount of clover in the paddock to determine how much N can be reduced. The higher the clover content the higher the reduction in N is possible.

If little or no clover is present and you need to be on a 21 day rotation length, then about 0.8 of a unit of nitrogen is required per day. This means that 17 units/acre is spread after each grazing or 24 units/acre for the whole month.

There is usually an increase in biological nitrogen in the system after a dry spell, so farmers should make use of this and cut back on chemical N.

Sward watch

  • Heavy rain is forecast for most of the country over the coming week, which should help with grass growth.
  • If this rain doesn’t materialise, farmers will be plunged into a deeper grass deficit.
  • Even after the rain comes, it will be necessary to keep supplement in the diet until such time that grass covers increase.
  • If clover content is good, reduce chemical N by between 50% and 100% from now on.
  • Farmers

    Brendan Walsh – Ballylooby, Co Tipperary

    Grass growth has slowed here big time so we are feeding 2.5kg of silage and 4kg of meal per cow per day. The place is still very green, particularly in the clover paddocks so I’d be hoping that we’ll bounce back quickly if we get enough rain, which is looking more likely.

    Clover has really taken off in the last few weeks and these fields have got no nitrogen fertiliser since March.

    We are reseeding a paddock on the milking platform today with 2kg red clover and 2kg white clover per acre along with Aston Energy and Aston Conquerer.

    The only field we have that’s thriving in these dry conditions is the red clover silage on the out-farm.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 3.19

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 59

    Average Farm Cover (kg/cow) 176

    Yield (l/cow) 24.56

    Fat % 4.42

    Protein% 3.69

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 2.05

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 6.5

    Michael Kavanagh – Gorey, Co Wexford

    We’ve had a significant dry period which has seen growth rates fall. As a result, we’ve introduced baled silage at milking times to try hold pre-grazing covers at 1,500kg DM.

    We are continuing to spread protected urea at a rate of 0.75u/day. Second cut silage will be harvested in another four weeks, with this ground having received 70 units of N/acre.

    We sowed a multispecies sward this year, with first grazing of it going well. Cows cleaned it out and it has grown back nicely with no fertiliser required.

    In our reseeds this year we added in additional clover in to the mixes and there is now a good percentage of clover in the sward.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 3.5

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 74

    Average Farm Cover (kg/cow) 216

    Yield (l/cow) 25.7

    Fat % 4.07

    Protein% 3.45

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 1.99

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 5

    Brendan Horan – Teagasc Curtins, Co Cork

    Fields are currently very dry, with soil moisture deficits up to 50mm and limited rainfall expected before the weekend.

    Growth has slowed in all treatments to 40-50 kg ha/day but as all treatments have almost all area available, demand is 45kg/day and we have adequate grass for another week before silage is required.

    We have reintroduced concentrates in all treatments to 5kg/day as pre-grazing yields will fall below 1,000kg before the weekend.

    We are grazing covers down to 4cm, and have 12 days of grass ahead. The clover content in the sward is currently 20%, with no chemical N spread the last number of weeks.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 2.73

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 50

    Average Farm Cover (kg/cow) 196

    Yield (l/cow) 16.2

    Fat % 4.78

    Protein% 3.48

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 1.5

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 5