Each extra tonne of grass utilised/ha (eaten/ha) on Irish farms is worth €185/ha in extra profit, according to Teagasc’s John Maher.

On the back of this, the Teagasc Dairy Specialist said there is a need to improve the spring grazing management on Irish farms, as it has a huge bearing on profit.

Speaking at Wednesday’s Positive Farmers Conference in Co. Cork, Maher said Pasturebase figures show that Irish dairy farmers have grown 14t/ha of grass on average over the past four years.

But, there is huge variation in the amount of grass grown between the months of March and April – with year-on-year variation differing by as much as 40%.

Benefits of early turnout to grass:
  • Improved animal performance
  • Lower feed costs
  • Huge benefits on terms of grass growth and utilisation

The Teagasc representative also said farmers need to put tools in place to maximise the amount of grass utilised at farm level.

“We have to go after the grass early, not only for profit and the cows, but also for grass utilisation and the grass growing capacity of the farm.”

Getting the most from spring grass

Addressing the large number of farmers in attendance, he said probably one of the greatest factors to influence spring grass supply is autumn management, while the amount of grass grown over the winter is heavily dependent on the weather.

“If we look at the winter grass growth over the past four years it has averaged 4kg/day over the months of January to February.

“Nitrogen application is the second most important factor influencing spring grass and that is influenced by the farmer, the weather and the grass cover.”

He advised farmers to apply 60-70 units of N/ac by April 1 in the form of fertiliser and/or slurry and ideally, he said, this should be split into two separate applications.

Tools to manage spring grass:
  • Use the spring rotation planner
  • Monitor grass supply and regrowth
  • Early spring Nitrogen applications
  • Use grazing techniques to manage grass during difficult conditions