Met Eireann is forecasting unsettled weather for the coming days and, after the rain of late, grazing conditions may be deteriorating.

Some areas will receive 200-250% of their normal rainfall amounts, as a band of low pressure continues to stretch across the country.

Farmers operating on heavier soils are likely to suffer worst of all. The drainage capacity of these soils may be insufficient to handle high-rainfall quantities.

In addition, many farmers have opted to take surplus grass out as bales in recent weeks. And, although it’s necessary to maintain grass quality, it does reduce the size of the grazing platform and increase the stocking rate.

For farmers who got a little bit too happy with the mower, the number of paddocks with an ideal target pre-grazing cover (1,300-1,600kg/ha) could be limited.

This problem could be further compounded if some of these paddocks are inclined to poach during wet periods.

Managing with difficult grazing conditions

Focus on dry paddocks

Farmers should aim to graze their drier paddocks first – especially if the platform consists of some heavy-type soils.

Focusing on these paddocks will allow you to make the best use of your grass and keep poaching to a minimum.

It may be necessary to skip some of the heavier soil type paddocks for a couple of days until weather conditions improve. This will ensure that a good clean-out is achieved when these paddocks are grazed.

Strategic use of an electric fence

Earlier this year, many farmers switched to using 24 or 36-hour grazing blocks. However, with conditions likely to disimprove, the use of 12-hour blocks should be given serious consideration.

If a paddock is prone to damage during a spell of wet weather, the use of these blocks will keep the amount of damage done to a minimum.

Farmers should also consider using back fences to keep cows off recently-grazed paddocks.

grass growth

On-off grazing

Another option that farmers should consider, especially if grazing conditions are really difficult, is on-off grazing.

Two bouts of three-hour grazings after morning and evening milking, as long as adequate grass is provided, can eliminate the need to supplement cows with silage if it’s necessary to house them.

On-off grazing is a very simple tool that takes advantage of the cow’s natural ability to graze. In difficult conditions, it allows cows to get out to grass for some proportion of the day to consume as much grass as possible.