Grass advice: Options for reducing grass demand on farms

Average grass growth rates, across the country, continue to take a slight dip, as we head further into autumn.

In terms of average grass growth rates, PastureBase Ireland figures are showing 49kg DM/ha in Ulster, 55kg DM/ha in Leinster, 51kg DM/ha in Connacht and 55kg DM/ha in Munster.

Growth rates on some farms are still quite high, with some farms over the past few days taking out some paddocks for bales.

Although on some farms, in terms of building covers, some are not quite where they should be at this stage of the season.

As we have surpassed the midway point of September, it is important to take stock of what grass supplies are on the farm.

At this stage of the season, farms stocked at 2.5 LU/ha should have targeted an average farm cover (AFC) of 1,000-1,100kg DM/ha, while farms stocked at 3.0 LU/ha and 3.5 LU/ha should have targeted an AFC of 1,100kg DM/ha and 1,200kg DM/ha respectively.

Target AFC by October 1, according to Teagasc:

  • 2.5 cows/ha – 1,000kg DM/ha;
  • 3.0 cows/ha – 1,150kg DM/ha;
  • 3.5 cows/ha – 1,175kg DM/ha.

Options for reducing demand

Every effort should be made, while growth rates are relatively good, to build covers – in order to extend the grazing season and to leave the grazing platform with a sufficient cover of grass, at housing, for grazing the following spring.

The month of September is usually when farmers get their herd of cows scanned to see how well the breeding season fared.

The hope will be to have as few cows empty as possible and going by reports and from chatting to farmers, results seem to quite good so far.

Also Read: 'Scanning results have been good so far; I haven't come across any disasters yet'

So, in order to build covers, demand must be reduced on the farm and an option for farmers to achieve this is by selling empty cows.

This is a good way of reducing demand, instead of having to increase concentrate supplementation, for example.

Another handy way of reducing grass demand is through zero-grazing. Farms who have an outblock of land have gone down the route of zero-grazing over the past two-to-three weeks and it has worked to good effect.

A third option is to increase concentrate supplementation or to introduce silage.