Grass advice: Time to think about building covers for autumn

Whether it was taking out surplus paddocks or making second-cut silage, over the weekend, farmers up and down the country took advantage of the good weather to make silage.

Therefore, at this stage, on many farms, most of this year’s silage has been saved so thoughts should turn to building grass covers for the autumn period.

The reason for this is to have a bank of grass on the farm, which allows for the grazing season to be extended while also setting up the farm for next spring.

According to Teagasc, targets vary depending on the stocking rate on a farm but a rule of thumb is to have an average farm cover of 1,000kg DM/ha and a cover/cow of 300-330kg DM by September 1.

It is also recommended that farms carrying more than 3.0 cows/ha should avoid allowing peak farm covers to go above 1,200kg DM/ha because this would mean cows are grazing covers in excess of 2,000kg DM/ha. Covers this high are more difficult to graze out and are slower to recover.

Attentions should turn to building covers of grass for the autumn period

What should I be doing?

Grass continues to grow well across the country. Recent figures from PastureBase Ireland show that growth rates were ranging between 53kg DM/ha up to as high 87kg DM/ha.

This, in turn, is leaving farmers in a good position to build covers for the autumn period and leave themselves in a good position for the final part of the grazing season and into next spring.

Unless covers are extremely high, farmers should consider calling a halt to taking out too many paddocks for bales if growth rates are poor, especially on farms where stocking rates are high.

It is important that farmers continue to walk their farms and see what grass supplies are there. Grass measuring is the best way to know how much grass is on the farm. 

The plan should be to continue to graze out paddocks to 4.0-4.5cm and increase the rotation length so that by the start of September it is at 30 days.

With the deadline for the spreading of nitrogen (N) just over a month away, farmers should continue to spread fertiliser to take advantage of good grass growth rates. According to Teagasc, spreading N now – in the month of August – will give a better response than spreading in September.