Why some dairy farmers grow twice as much spring grass as others

Initial results emerging from the first two years of the Teagasc Pasturebase programme show that there are huge variations in spring grass production by farmers around the country.

Presented by Michael O’Donovan in Moorepark, the latest figures show that while the study is still in its early days it has already identified notable variations in spring growth (January 1 – April 10) across the 70 farms feeding in information to Teagasc.

The Pasturebase trial collects data from 70 farms throughout the country and the initial results show a range from under 1t DM/ha to just under 2t DM/ha, the results indicate some farms are achieving double the spring grass production than other participants.

Growing grass at the ‘shoulders’ of the grazing season is seen to be an area where improvements can be made in overall production and grass utilisation, and early observations are indicating much improvements can be made.

Why some farmers are growing more

Although altitude, soil type and rainfall are recognised as being significant limiting factors to farmers in early season grass growth, management still has a key role in getting the optimum out of your farm, Michael O’Donovan said.

He also referred to some key drivers of spring grass production. Although the data is only accounting for one grazing season so far, the farmers in Pasturebase achieving this production emphasised importance of having the correct soil indexs for P, K and lime, and February/early grazing where conditions allow.

Early grazing is seen as key to driving grass growth, and over the year, the higher yielding farms also achieved the highest number of rotations, indicating an intense grazing regime drives grass production.

Grassland management, in general, the group heard is the main factor driving production on an annual basis, with a comment passed that minimal genetic improvements have been made in yield with 1.6t DM/ha achieved over the last 40 years, whereas improved management decisions have the potential to drive production so much more.

The first glimpses of the Pasture Profit Index, the EBI of grass varieties, were also revealed on the day with Abergain, Dunluce and Aberchoice coming out on top over a range of sub-indexes, factoring in overall yield, silage suitability and persistency.

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