By Dr Norman Weatherup, Senior Grassland Technologist, CAFRE, Greenmount
The damp and generally mild conditions over winter permitted considerable grass growth. The benefits of an early turnout to utilise this grass are well known but many farms experienced difficulty in getting cattle out due to poor ground conditions. In contrast to last year, grass growth is now in line with the long term trend and should reach peak growth rates in the next few weeks. This combination of factors has resulted in many fields having similar covers (i.e., no wedge has been established) and also covers which are passing optimum stage for grazing.
Staff at Greenmount’s Abbey Farm monitor grass covers every week and using an internet based grass monitoring tool www.agrinet.ie identified a surplus of grass. An area of 2.5ha has been round baled with a total of 19 bales in store for the winter. Further areas may be taken out for clamp silage when the first cut is taken in the next two weeks depending on ground and growing conditions.
It is important to maintain control of grass covers in the grazing area in May as this will define grass quality for the rest of the season. Maintaining a dense, leafy, high quality sward now will pay dividends later by improving cattle performance and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, allowing a surplus of grass to develop and attempting to graze heavy covers will result in poor utilisation with much of it being wasted. This in turn will lead to a buildup of dead, stemmy material at the base of the sward. This material has a lower energy content and is less palatable for stock and hence cattle performance can be disappointing.
- Monitor swards weekly
- Take corrective action early
- Join a grass/clover discussion group
- Contact your local CAFRE Development Adviser (Telephone 0300 200 7843) for further information on grass budgeting.