A focus on grazing infrastructure at BEEF 2018

Crowds descended on Teagasc Grange, Co. Meath, for this year’s BEEF 2018 open day; one of the key focuses on the day was grazing infrastructure.

Teagasc’s Dr. Pat Tuohy gave farmers in attendance a run-through of one of the latest projects completed at the Meath-based research farm. This involved the draining and reseeding of a 6.3ha parcel of ground.

Highlighting some of the issues around grazing infrastructure, he said: “We’ve seen a very bizarre year weather-wise so far, but it’s not too long ago that an awful lot of stock in the country were inside looking out of sheds.

“As things started to dry up, we were trying to push farmers to get out and graze and to get access to the areas of their farms that were possible to graze.

“Some farms are better set up than others in that regard. What we are highlighting here are the different aspects of investment that could be made to improve conditions for grazing – to get stock out earlier and later in the year.”

Teagasc’s Pat Tuohy and Catherine Egan addressing farmers at BEEF 2018

Improvements

Work began on improving the 6.3ha parcel in August 2017, when the ground was sprayed off and a drainage system was installed. The drainage system included 1,050m of field drains and 240m of open drains.

The parcel has also been split into eight 1.8ha paddocks and a central roadway has been installed to provide easier access when it comes to grazing in the shoulders of the year.

Along with this, a focus was also placed on reseeding, soil fertility and water. The eight paddocks were reseeded with an AstonEnergy/Drumbo mix and four bags of 10:10:20 were applied at reseeding in May 2018.

Prior to making these improvements, the parcel had been used for two cuts of silage and autumn grazing. The production achieved was quite poor at 6.5t/ha of dry matter per year. Phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) indices sat at 1 and 2, respectively.

However, following the aforementioned works, it’s hoped that grass growth and the number of days of grazing achieved will improve significantly.

Teagasc’s Catherine Egan discussed the costs of the project. On a per-hectare basis, she noted that the overall cost was €3,850/ha.

Costs:
  • Land drainage: €1,670/ha;
  • Reseeding and fertility: €865/ha;
  • Central roadway: €740/ha;
  • Fencing: €400/ha;
  • Water system: €175/ha.

She added: “There’s a number of expected benefits from this work.

It will increase grass production and quality. It will extend the grazing season – both in the spring and autumn – and it will increase grass utilsation on the farm.

“The main central roadway will allow access for machinery and stock during the grazing season. Overall, it will reduce feed costs because the increase in grass utilsation will reduce concentrate input.”

Does it pay?

Based on finance costs of €75, a depreciation rate of €190 and a minimum return-on-investment of 10%, an additional 6.2t/ha (valued at €105/t) of grass will have to be utilised to generate the desired return.

Taking into consideration the low starting point (6.5t/ha/year), this will apparently be possible given the focus on grazing infrastructure, reseeding and soil fertility.