Cold and wet weather takes its toll on breeding and grass growth

With soil temperature at 9 degrees and over 30mm of rain this week, it is far from an idyllic start to breeding; as grass growth rates are either barely meeting, or well below demand.

The range in growth rates has been 30-55kg/ha this week. Just as the breeding season begins, the last thing we want to do is change the cows diet, however if cover/cow is dropping (below 160kg/LU), we must slow down the rotation with concentrates or silage, or both if growth rates have been very poor.

If introducing/increasing supplement, walk the farm every five-to-seven days to monitor growth closely. Once weather begins to warm up, growth will accelerate rapidly.

Long daylight hours and milder nights should have growth rates at 40-60kg, depending on how much grass you have on farm and your location/soil type.

After walking the farm, it is crucial that we not only assess what growth rates we have had over the past seven days, but also to estimate what growth rate we can expect for the next seven days, based on current growth rates, average farm cover (AFC) and the 10-day forecast.

It is from this information that we can make decisions for the week ahead. On several farms that blanket spread N at the beginning of the second rotation, there was no fert spread again for at least three-to-four weeks.

If blanket spreading, we must begin to follow the cows with Nitrogen 10 days after blanket spreading.

Although grass growth will require between one-two units N/day, the plant will uptake and store the majority of N within 3-7 days, when the grass is grazed off, the majority of N is removed and so we must spread more fert to maximise grass growth.

On a 25-30 day round, the recommended amount of N to apply is 27-30 units, along with some sulphur. On free draining land, aim to apply 25-30 units Sulphur per year, the majority of which should be applied in the first 2-3 grazing rounds.

Weigh young stock pre weaning, calves are at their most efficient growth stage at this point and we can easily catch up on any low weights now. Once calves are turned out and in big groups, any small calves will suffer.

Don’t play catch up next winter, do the hard work now.

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