‘60% of next spring’s grass will be grown by December 1’

Up to 60% of the grass grazed on Irish farms in spring 2017 will be grown by December 1, Teagasc’s Micheal O’Leary has said.

To achieve this level of production, the Teagasc PastureBase Coordinator said heavily stocked farms (>3LU/ha) should have 70% of the farm grazed by November 1.

“The 60:40 planner was developed a number of years ago when milking platforms were typically stocked at 2.5LU/ha. Nowadays stocking rates are much higher.

“The reason for the increase in percentage grazed is to give the paddocks more time to regrow and finish the final rotation with an adequate average farm cover,” he said.

Post grazing residuals are also important at this time of year, with post-grazing heights of 4-4.5cm ideal, however this can be difficult on heavier farms O’Leary said.

In some areas of Ireland, farmers are beginning to take a serious look at closing the grazing platform as the grass supply is diminishing rapidly due to high demand, as soil temperatures and grass growth rates reduce.

Target closing covers

Teagasc recommends a targeted closing Average Farm Cover (AFC) of 550-600kg of Dry Matter (DM) per hectare on November 15 when stocked at 2.5LU/ha. However 700kg of DM/ha is required on farms stocked at 3.5LU/ha.

O’Leary said for farmer to reach these targets action needs to be taken now.

“Farmers need to stretch out what grass they have on their farm and supplement accordingly.

“Farmers must keep in mind that each day at grass in the autumn is worth €1.80/cow/day but in the spring each day at grass is worth €2.70/cow.

There was a lot of surplus bales made in May this year when growth rates hit 100kg DM/ha/day on many farms and now is the time to start using them.

Teagasc figures also show that a closing cover of 600kg DM/ha in mid-November will lead to an opening farm cover of 900kg DM/ha in early February.

grazed grass cover Oct 15

Grass quality returning to normal

O’Leary also said that grass quality, particularly the Dry Matter level, is returning to normal following a dip in September, where it fell as low as 11-12% due to heavy rainfall.

“Pre-grazing grass samples that were analysed last week showed DMD levels of 78-82% and crude protein 18-26%,” he said.

Currently, he said, grass dry matters are hitting 14-15%.

Keeping in mind that the grass grown on-farm over the next five-to-six weeks will be used in February, farmers should ensure that they graze paddocks out properly.

O’Leary also said it is important to note that paddocks needs to be protected, and on heavy soils on/off grazing is recommended.

In two three-hour periods a cow will eat 90% of her total daily intake.

If post-grazing heights are neglected, dead herbage material with low nutritional value may be carried over into swards next spring which will subsequently reduce spring growth rates.