Diary date: Irish Grassland Association event to focus on grazing infrastructure

Towards the end of 2017, the Irish Grassland Association completed a short member survey asking what events they would most like to see for the coming year.

Following the feedback received, it was decided to run an event focused on grazing infrastructure; it will take place on Wednesday, April 25.

The objective is to demonstrate options and costings for improving grazing infrastructure on your farm and it will focus on water, fencing, paddock layouts and roadways.

Sponsored by Terra Services, its ultimate aim is to provide farmers with the necessary tools to achieve high grass DM (dry matter) yields and improved grass utilisation.

Meet the host farmer

Billy Gilmore and his son Martin farm in partnership in Cortoon, just 10km outside Tuam, Co. Galway. Billy farms just over 55ha, which is fragmented into 10 parcels.

It comprises of owned and rented land, which is relatively dry. However, approximately 20ha could be described as heavy and is liable to some flooding in winter/spring.

In the past two years, the farm has changed from suckler cows and selling weanlings to contract rearing heifers for a local dairy farmer and the Newford Herd in Athenry.

In 2018, there will be 116 yearlings reared and another 26-30 will come in May. Billy also has a sheep enterprise and he lambed 160 ewes this spring.

The farm stocking rate has increased considerably since 2009; moving from 1.2LU/ha (livestock units per hectare) to approximately 2LU/ha at present. At the same time, gross margin has increased from €538/ha to €1,395/ha through a focus on a low-cost, grass-based system and by keeping variable costs low.

Key grass management changes

Some of the changes Billy has implemented to achieve this improved performance include: weekly farm walks; optimum pre-grazing yields; and grazing to a residual of 3.5cm. These changes have resulted in more high-quality grass in the diet and better utilisation of grass.

Ultimately, he has achieved this by splitting large fields into paddocks and the better placement of water troughs to allow for easier grazing management and better control of grass on the farm.

At the event, Billy will discuss the decisions he made regarding paddock size and fencing options.

Topics covered on the day

A number of topics will be covered on the day. Firstly, Billy and his Teagasc advisor, Gabriel Trayers, will outline the history of the farm. Animal performance targets will also be discussed.

Secondly, infrastructure considerations will be discussed by Teagasc’s Catherine Egan. She will outline good practice guidelines, options and financial costings for improving grazing infrastructure, including: water; fencing; paddock layouts; and roadways.

And, finally, UCD’s Bridget Lynch will discuss summer grassland management to maximise grass utilisation.

When and where?

The event will take place on Billy Gilmore’s farm in Tuam, Co. Galway on Wednesday, April 25. It will commence at 10:30am sharp and will be free for anyone interested in attending. The farm is located north-east of Tuam and will be well signposted off the N83.