Caught in the rain: Should I mow or should I wait?

As a result of how weather conditions panned over the past fortnight, many drystock farmers – who would have traditionally cut silage in the last days of May or first few days in June – find themselves still waiting on a window in the weather to get the crop mowed and lifted.

With conditions forecasted to remain cool and showery this week, AgriLand caught up with Teagasc’s Joe Patton to see what farmers who still find themselves in the first-cut departures lounge should do.

Patton explained that while grass is wet, ground conditions – in most instances – are workable.

“I don’t think ground conditions are the issue and I haven’t seen people getting caught with soil contamination or the likes.

“It’s not like other years, like 2009, where ground was sopping wet and field conditions were in trouble.

“If ground is travelable, farmers should be taking their opportunities between the showers and going ahead with cutting.”

The problem with this, Patton explained, is dealing with wet silage, and the effluent arising from this.

At this stage, in most cases, quality has gone out of grass. The type of material to be cut will be wet but it should still preserve okay.

Patton acknowledged that most pit silage is already done but said a common problem he is observing is farmers who are trying to take paddocks with surplus grass out for bales are struggling to get the weather.

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“In most cases, a lot of people left to cut are making bulk for dry cows or are waiting to make bales.

“Farmers with larger areas still to bale, should possibly look at splitting it down and getting parts of it baled.

Anything that grows from this week onwards, is just growing stem. There’s no feed quality in what is growing on heavy first cuts now.

“For every extra 500kg you’re growing at this stage of the year, there’s probably only between 10-20% of that available to the animal,” he noted.

“If this is taken out of the field in regrowths instead, farmers will actually end up with more silage from the field as a whole.”

Concluding, Patton explained: “By the end of this week, farmers should definitely try to have some silage secured in the yard.”