Video: Adjusting your rotation planner after a ‘challenging’ spring

Inclement weather and challenging grazing conditions have forced many farmers to house cows, leading to a delay in the progress being made through the rotation planner, according to Teagasc’s Dr. Mike Egan.

The spring rotation planner is a tool developed to allow farmers to know how much ground they will need to graze on a daily or weekly basis, to finish up the first rotation by early April.

When used in conjunction with the weekly measurement of Average Farm Cover (AFC) to allocate grass, it ensures that there is sufficient grass to last up until the end of the first round of grazing.

Spring rotation planner targets:
  • March 1 – 30% of the farm grazed
  • March 17 – 66% of the farm grazed
  • April 7 – Begin second round of grazing

Targets missed

But, as a result of the poor weather in recent weeks, Egan said the 30% target has been missed in a lot of cases and farmers need to readjust to make up ground.

“We need to readjust, make up that ground and keep monitoring our farm.”

In cases where 30% hasn’t been grazed by the first of March, he said farmers need to look at what they have grazed, how much grass is coming back on grazed paddocks and to start readjusting their spring rotation planner from now on.

Video: Adjusting your spring rotation planner

Making adjustments

Where farmers can get out to grass, the Grassland Research Officer said farmers can increase the area allocated to their cows.

“If you were looking at targeting the end of your first rotation somewhere around April 7 and you didn’t get what you wanted to have grazed in February, you need to monitor your farm and make sure you have enough grass to get to April 7,” he said.

“When we’re starting our second rotation we need an Average Farm Cover of about 500kg Dry Matter/ha,” he added.

If the AFC of 500kg is not present, he said, additional supplement will have to be brought into the system.

You will reduce your overall growth rates because you are going to be grazing very low covers.”

In cases where an Average Farm Cover of 500kg is not available, Egan advised farmers to extend their first rotation planner slightly.

“Farmers need to look at the paddocks that were grazed in early February and monitor how much grass is coming back.

“Average Farm Cover will tell us how much grass we have at one point in time, but it is going to tell us very little about the grass coming back on the paddocks grazed in early February.

“Ideally we want covers of 500-600kg DM/ha on paddocks grazed in the first or second week of February.

“And if we don’t have that 500-600kg cover, and it is much lower, the chances of getting to a pre-grazing cover of 1,200kg by April 6 will be reduced.

A good rule of thumb is to have 800kg DM/ha on those grazed paddocks by St Patrick’s day.

“If you have 800kg on those paddocks that were grazed in the first few weeks of February, they will need to grow 400kg in the following two-and-a-half weeks and that requires growth rates of about 20-25kg/day.

“You need to look back at previous years’ records to see can your farm grow that amount of grass and if it can’t, you need to extend your first rotation to ensure that you are going to have adequate grass on that ground.

“It is extremely mild and growth rates have been very good, but the fact that we are behind target on most farms means that we do need to look at what is going to happen on the grazed paddocks,” he said.