Grass growth: Could be time to pull the plug

While some farmers are continuing to graze, others have been forced to house animals due to the extremely heavy rain experienced in areas over the weekend and into this week.

Moreover, with the majority of soils saturated and waterlogged, finishing the final rotation – on some farms – is going to be difficult.

By now, the target is to have over 70% of the farm closed on drier farms and over 80% closed on heavier farms.

Where farmers are finding it difficult to finish the final round, using some simple grazing techniques, such as on-off grazing, may be a useful way to get those last few paddocks grazed.

Likewise, for heavy covers that are yet to be grazed, another option is to graze them off using lighter stock or leave them to be grazed in the spring, when conditions allow.

However, leaving heavy covers to be grazed in the spring is not advised. The quality of those paddocks will deteriorate very quickly over the winter.

Looking at average grass growth rates, PastureBase Ireland figures are showing 10kg DM/ha in Ulster, 18kg DM/ha in Leinster, 18kg DM/ha in Connacht and 18kg DM/ha in Munster.

Research by Teagasc has consistently shown that spring grass is twice as valuable as autumn grass. Therefore, it is hugely important to close at the correct closing cover, for your farm, to ensure that an adequate amount of grass is available next spring.

To ensure this, farmers must get out now an assess where they are in terms of their average farm cover (AFC).

Target closing covers on December 1 – recommended by Teagasc:
  • 2.5 cows/ha: 600kg DM/ha;
  • Three cows/ha: 600kg DM/ha – 650kg DM/ha;
  • 3.5 cows/ha: 700kg DM/ha – 750kg DM/ha.

If you are below target now, you need to think about where you will be on December 1 – taking into consideration that grass growth rates are declining. Will you be on target by then?

On the other hand, if you are on or above target closing cover now supplementation will have to be increased to avoid running down the AFC and if the intention is to extend the grazing season into mid or late November.

Teagasc studies have shown that every day you delay closing in the autumn, it reduces spring grass availability by 12kg DM/ha.

Hygiene and drying-off

As animals begin to be housed, house hygiene should be a top priority – to avoid any mastitis infections. When housed and still milking, it is advisable to clean and lime – or use whatever is the preferred bedding – cubicles twice-a-day (TAD).

Also, by now any cows with twins, have a poor body condition score (BCS), are lame or those lower yielders should be considered for drying off; as milking cows off silage and meal when housed can be an expensive process; particularly at current milk prices.

CLASSIFIED ADVERTS