Grass availability will be at record levels for dairy cows calving later this month according to Teagasc research scientist Dr Tim O’Donavan

“It has been a very mild winter thus far,” he commented.

“We know that a quite a number of farms were closed off with covers in the range 650 to 750 kilos of grass dry matter per hectare. Normally, this figure would be in the 600 to 650 kilos range. In fact grass covers at Teagasc’s Curtins Farm are currently in the region of 1,000 kilos.

“All of this will be good news for milk producers as they strive to improve efficiency levels during what looks like being a period of challenging milk prices over the next few months or so.”

Teagasc research has shown that every extra day which cows can spend at grass during the early Spring period will improve margins by €3.70 per head on a daily basis.

“This is why it is so important to have cows utilise the grass that is available them in the most effective way possible. Despite the recent rain, ground conditions remain good and soil temperatures are more than adequate in terms of facilitating grass growth,” O’Donavan commented.

“Once open covers have been grazed off, Nitrogen should be applied to swards as soon as possible thereafter in order to ensure that optimal grass growth rates are achieved from paddocks into Februar and March. These applications can take the form of both slurry and urea.

“At Moorepark we will be spreading slurry as soon as possible after the January 15 opening date.”

The core message from Teagasc advisors to dairy farmers over the coming weeks will be to take every feasible cost reduction measure.

“In practical terms, this means getting freshly calved cows off expensive winter diets and out into the paddocks as quickly as possible,” O Donavan said.