Grass growth jumps by 650kg/ha on dairy farms in 2017

Last year, Irish dairy farms grew 650kg/ha – on average – more grass when compared to 2016. Over the duration of the year, the average dairy farm grew 14.4t of grass.

Speaking to AgriLand, Teagasc’s Micheal O’Leary said: “Average grass production in 2017 was good. However, it was not without its challenges.

“Weather conditions in August and September became very difficult; especially in the west and north-west. Where drought wasn’t an issue in the east of the country, steady growth rates were maintained throughout the summer and autumn.”

Touching on growth rates throughout the year, the PastureBase Ireland (PBI) administrator said: “Spring growth (January 1 to April 10) was up 30% in 2017 when compared with the same period in 2016.

This was largely driven by the mild winter and favourable growing conditions – especially in March. Taking a look at the main grazing season (April 11 to August 10), 2017 growth was 10% greater than 2016.

Despite the marked increases earlier in the year, production slowed during the autumn period.

“Autumn grass production (August 11 to December 31) fell by 12%, but the autumn of 2016 was excellent.”

The annual dry matter production on PBI dairy farms between 2013 and 2017 in kilograms of dry matter per hectare

More grazings in 2017

Along with seeing additional grass production, there was also an increase in the number of grazings achieved on PBI dairy farms last year.

It is well known that the number of grazings achieved per paddock is a major driver of grass production; every extra grazing is worth 1.39t of dry matter per hectare.

“In 2016, dairy farms achieved 7.2 grazings per paddock; this increase to 7.8 grazings in 2017. In each year since PBI was introduced, farmers have increased the number of grazings per paddock,” O’Leary said.

This analysis was extracted from PBI dairy farms who recorded 30 measurements on PBI in 2016 and 2017. Also, please note that the pool of farms in 2017 was bigger than in 2016 (an additional 35 farms).