Difficult conditions affect grass growth and silage making

Constant rain showers have led to great difficulty in getting first cut silage harvested, while grass growth in many areas demands attention.

With grass growth averaging 70kg on many farms last week, getting surplus grass taken off is also difficult.

However, with growth rates falling to below 50kg on some farms this week, some of the ‘surplus’ may now be required. If a grass surplus still exists, focus on maintaining grass quality and not on bale quality – ideally this grass would be tedded out to increase dry matter but currently this is not an option.

Stem is now apparent in some paddocks as heading date approaches. A grazing rotation greater than 18-19 days is likely to result in reduced sward quality, maintaining a short rotation targeting pre grazing yields of 1200-1,400kg; depending on your stocking rate, will increase the leaf:stem ratio in the sward.

If there are paddocks that are low in P or K, these will be more prone to stress and throw up stem more rapidly so addressing these fertility issues will extend grass quality. It will be impossible to clean up all stem in one rotation so try to take out the poorest quality paddocks and short-rotation other paddocks that have a stemmy base.

Ground conditions have deteriorated on heavier soils – not a common issue for June. Some farms will have to on/off graze to reduce poaching. It is crucial that farms are walked weekly as low growth rates will rebound once temperatures increase.

Soil temperature this morning was 10.5 degrees, a reduction in almost two degrees from last week. Continue to spread Nitrogen when conditions allow.

With some first cut still waiting to be harvested, second cut silage will have to be high quality – not the usual heavier cut made for dry cows. Bear this in mind when deciding how much N to apply, I would spread 80 units N, 20-30 units P, 80 units of K and 10-15 units of sulphur – 2,000 gallons slurry would supply at least half of this P and K; soil P and K indices will dictate whether you need to apply more or less than this.

Once weather warms up, growth will jump rapidly so ensure you only increase supplementation were absolutely necessary. Walk farm every five days to monitor situation closely. Low milk price means we must squeeze costs wherever possible, feeding supplement when it is not needed will further hit profits.

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