Grazing on many dairy farms has come to an end for the year. Although challenging at times on some farms, it is ongoing.

Heavy rain over the last few weeks has forced many farmers to house livestock for the winter months.

The focus is on getting areas grazed off and the farm set-up for spring 2024.

As we head towards the end of October, the target for dairy farms is to have 60% of the farm grazed and closed for spring.

Grazing conditions

In a typical year where wet weather has not caused problems with grazing on farm, the aim would have been to have 30% of the farm closed by October 20, a further 30% closed by the beginning of November, and the remaining 40% grazed off and closed by mid-November.

In many cases these targets have not, and likely will not, be achieved on most farms in 2023.

On farms where grazing is continuing, the focus should be on getting area grazed off and avoiding causing damage.

Make use of multiple access points in your paddocks and spur roadways if and when required.

A combination of higher than usual growth rates and limited grazing means that on many farms, average farm cover (AFC) is higher than ideal.

Getting area grazed off, preventing damage and getting AFC lowered will be the focus for as long as grazing continues.

Grass growth

The latest figures from PastureBase Ireland show current grass growth rates of 23kg of dry matter (DM)/ha for Leinster, 22kg of DM/ha for Munster, 25kg of DM/ha for Connacht and 16kg of DM/ha for Ulster.

A reasonable weather forecast for the weekend should hopefully see grazing continue for those still at grass and possibly a short return to grass for those currently housed.

The predicted growth rates for the coming days are 18kg of DM/ha for Leinster, 18kg of DM/ha for Munster, 15kg of DM/ha for Connacht and 14kg of DM/ha for Ulster.

Further heavy showers are likely going to result in cows having to be housed in all areas and although getting the farm grazed off is important – it should not be done if damage is highly likely.