How to hit the 60% spring grazing target by mid-March

Grazing has been compromised over the last number of weeks on farms due to the weather and poor field conditions.

However, despite this farmers need to stick to their spring grazing plan, Teagasc advises.

While Teagasc says that most farms will be behind on grazing, the next spring grazing target is to have 60% of the farm grazed by mid-March.

Every farmer must strive to get as close to this target as possible and it recommends some ‘plan b’ approaches to be taken:

  • Graze the grazing ground (to allow it more time to recover);
  • Target the lower covers of grass (lower covers of grass recover quicker);
  • Use grazing techniques that will limit damage to land;
  • Target the paddocks with best access; and,
  • Let out the replacements.

Farmers are being advised to monitor the recovery on the paddocks grazed as they need to have a cover of 1,100-1,200kg DM/ha to begin the second round.

In order to boost grass growth, it recommends that the entire farm needs Nitrogen (N) fertiliser or slurry spread on it as soon as possible.

Remember that 60-70 units of N per acre are required to be applied to the entire grazing platform by April 1.

Therefore it says that 30-40 units of N per acre are required immediately if this is not already done.

Many farmers should consider two bags per acre of 18:6:12 as the second application of fertiliser in March to maintain phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) levels, it advises.

Managing forage dry matter intakes

Daily forage dry matter is low at 10-11kg DM/day in week one post calving but rises by about 1kg for every week thereafter to around 17kg DM by week eight, according to Teagasc.

In order to avoid digestive problems it advises that cows eat at least 12kg DM forage per day, which it says can be achieved in two grazing bouts.

To gauge grass intakes, it recommends monitoring herbage allowance and post-grazing heights.

What type of concentrate?

The gap between grass intake potential and milk energy demand is 2-3UFL (measurable units of energy) in early lactation.

It says that a high energy (UFL value 0.94), moderate protein (13-14% crude protein) ration with minerals included (Cal Mag, calcium, P, sodium (Na), trace elements) complements spring grass very well to fill this gap.

Research from Teagasc’s Moorepark facility has shown that feeding grass plus 3kg/day of this type of concentrate (total <180kg per cow during the first rotation) meets the daily energy and protein demand of herds peaking at around 2.0kg milk solids.

Late calving cows

Cows calving from late March onwards tend to have a higher risk of metabolic problems at calving, Teagasc says.

It attributes this to being largely caused by over-conditioning due to more days dry, and less attention to detail on dry cow mineral feeding due to high spring workload.

Farmers are advised to restrict intake of silage to these cows, if needed make sure feed offered is kept fresh, and double-check that minerals are being fed at the correct rate.