The Teagasc Grass10 report, launched at the Grassland Farmer of the Year awards on Tuesday, looked back at the last four years of the Grass10 programme.
The programme was established with the objective of increasing the amount of grass utilised on Irish farms to 10tDM/ha/year from 10 grazings per paddock.
On dairy farms, the amount of grass utilised in 2019 was 8tDM/ha, up from 7.7tDM/ha in 2016 – a 4% increase.
The situation on beef and drystock farms is bleak, with grass utilisation sitting at 5.9tDM/ha in 2016 and in 2019, showing no improvement and well short of the Grass10 targets.
This data is derived from National Farm Survey information. There are many factors influencing grass utilisation, such as soil type and weather and it’s fair to say that more beef farms are on heavier soil types and in higher rainfall areas.
There is better news when it comes to soil fertility
However, the fact remains there has been no progress on drystock farms in a key metric associated with the Grass10 programme and while progress has been made on dairy farms it is well behind target.
There is better news when it comes to soil fertility. Progress has been made in improving soil fertility in terms of soil pH, phosphorus and potassium.
In 2016, 44% of soil samples had a pH of greater than 6.2, while in 2019 that figure was 54%.
In 2016, 37% of soils had a phosphorus index of three or four while in 2019 that figure was 50%.
In 2016, 42% of soil samples had a potash index of three or four while in 2019 that figure was 58%.
The number of dairy farmers measuring grass more than 20 times on PastureBase in 2020 was 1,623.
While this has more than doubled since 2018 it still represents a very small proportion, about 10% of all dairy farmers.
Just 116 drystock farmers measured grass more than 20 times on PastureBase in 2020, representing just 0.1% of all drystock farmers.