Grass advice: Managing grass quality while the sun shines

With the sun on your back – and on the cows’ – dairy farming has to be one of the best professions to be in.

Growth rates have been between 55 and 85kg/ha/day here for the past two weeks.

The difference in performance between reseeded swards and old pasture is unbelievable.

A 14 to 15-day rotation in comparison to a 19 to 21-day rotation, combined with an increased milk solids yield, makes reseeding a very worthwhile investment.

I think some people spend more time chatting about reseeding than actually planning.

It is vital to ask yourself the following questions when thinking about reseeding:
  • What paddocks need to be reseeded?
  • What demand/stocking rate can I manage for the next two months when reseeding ground is out of action?

Knowing the answers to these questions, will tell you how much of the targeted area can be reseeded immediately.

Ideally, the demand should not be any greater than 70-75kg/ha/day, to allow for any unplanned growth drop in July during a cool spell.

Managing quality

During late May through to mid-June, grass is in the ‘reproductive stage’; trying desperately to produce a seed head and make sure its breeding lives on. A necessary evil in grassland management.

Good growth rates allow for surplus paddocks to be taken out in a bid to clean out these swards.

Don’t be afraid to drop cover per livestock unit (LU) to 150-160kg. The best grassland managers can manage to drop cover down to 130-140kg/LU, but this needs to be carefully monitored with weekly walks.

Keeping a cover of between 180kg/LU to 200kg/LU when stem is present in some paddocks is extremely poor management.

You will grow less grass, waste more and produce less milk.

If there is not a huge surplus, you could mow off a few light covers of between 900 and 1,000kg to clean up a greater area faster, rather than waiting for covers to reach 1,400kg plus.

grass

Milk yield drop

If milk yield had not started dropping in the past few weeks, we would be very concerned about conception rates; the greater the herd fertility, the more dramatic the drop in production will be three-to-five weeks into breeding.

Milk yield drop can be minimised by maximising grass quality.

Feeding more meal to compensate for poor-quality grass is foolish. You are simply increasing your input costs.

Cut out poor-quality pasture and ensure adequate fertiliser is being applied – 25 to 27 units/ac – to maintain growth rates during this warm spell.

Teagasc labour conference

I attended Teagasc’s ‘Managing Labour on your Dairy Farm’ conference last week and thought it was excellent. It illustrated several brilliant points:

  • Do not expect employed labour to work as hard as you – why should they?
  • Plan what jobs to do each week and write them on a board so everyone
    knows what’s going on.
  • Have a monthly rota.
  • Encourage staff to go on training days to instill motivation and progression.
  • Lead by example.
  • Pay on time – if wages are paid into accounts on Friday, make sure this is never late.
  • Appreciate the advantage of having another set of eyes and another person’s ideas on the farm.

Dairy farming is a great profession. Be at the top of your game and lead by
example.

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