6 steps to maintain grass quality as growth remains strong

As the warm and sunny weather continues, grass growth is moving in surplus territory and many farmers have been busy harvesting first-cut silage.

The mid-season target on many farms lies at 160-180kg/LU (dry matter). Currently, the growth rate is exceeding demand by 18kg/ha, according to PastureBase.

The Teagasc PastureBase system indicates that growth rates were: 76kg/ha/day in Ulster; 71kg/ha/day in Connacht; 76kg/ha/day in Leinster; and 85kg/ha/day in Munster on June 6.

In light of this, farmers are encouraged to walk their farms twice a week where possible.

This will help monitor growth rates and identify surpluses; this will also provide the opportunity to take out surpluses as high-quality bales.

In addition, it is important that farmers adjust their rotation length according to the growth rate on their farms; farmers should aim for a shorter rotation of 16-20 days.

Image source: PastureBase

Across the country, grass quality has deteriorated on a lot farms recently.

Ideally, farmers should target pre-grazing covers of 1,400kg/ha – as it corresponds to the three-leaf grass growth stage; this target applies across a range of stocking rates.

Cattle entering into paddocks with >1,700kg/ha will not graze paddocks out to the desired residual of 4cm. Therefore, this will lead to poorer utilisation and this will also have a negative impact on future rotations.

Earmarking the poorest quality paddocks for bales will allow farmers achieve a good clean out (4cm residual); this will also encourage good-quality regrowth.

It is far more beneficial – in terms of quality – to mow surplus paddocks for silage; this will also increase fodder supplies for next winter.

However, each individual farm is different and farmers should make decisions based on their own grass wedge. Not only will it allow farmers to identify surpluses, but it will also indicate grass deficits.

Tips to maintain quality:
  • Meet desired residual of 4cm;
  • Identify surplus grass and remove as high-quality bales;
  • Aim for covers of 1,400kg/ha (dry matter) – don’t graze heavy covers;
  • Walk the grazing platform twice weekly;
  • Operate off a shorter rotation length (16-20 days);
  • Generate a grass wedge.