Up to 60% of the grass grazed on Irish farms next spring will be grown by December 1.

To achieve this level of production, heavily-stocked farms (>3LU/ha) should have 70% of the farm grazed by November 1.

Although the summer that has just passed has been challenging in many quarters, striving to get stock out to grass as early as possible next spring should still remain a key priority.

Farmers need to start focusing on the length of the rotation and the average farm cover on their farms, as failing to do so could have a negative impact on grass supplies next spring.

It’s worth remembering that for each week of delay in closing in autumn, spring grass accumulation is reduced by 77kg/ha. Autumn closing date has a very significant impact on what level of grass is available next spring.

Autumn grazing targets

According to Teagasc, the autumn grazing targets vary from farm to farm and are dependent on stocking rate and soil type; the higher the stocking rate, the more ground the farmers need to have grazed by November 1.

Highly-stocked farms (3.5LU/ha) need to have at least 70% of the farm grazed by November 1, while farmers with a stocking rate of 3LU/ha and 2.5LU/ha respectively should aim to have 65% and 60% of the farm grazed by November 1.

Source: Teagasc

Following these grazing guidelines will allow farmers to get the most from spring grass next year. One of the key steps to ensure that these targets are obtained is by following the autumn rotation planner.

Target average farm covers for the end of September:
  • 2.5 cows/ha – 1,000kg/ha;
  • 3.0 cows/ha – 1,100kg/ha;
  • 3.5 cows/ha – 1,200kg/ha.

To meet these targets, farmers may need to stretch out what grass they have on their farms and supplement accordingly.

Increasing the rotation length in September and October will allow farmers to enter the correct grazing covers at the start of the final rotation on October 1 (the start of the final rotation can be one-to-two weeks earlier on heavy farms).