The beginning of October has seen a reduction in grass growth due to the change in weather, with the rain returning and temperatures dropping.

Many western counties have experienced a significant amount of rainfall over the last few days with more expected before the weekend.

The backend on most farm up until now has been quite good, with grass growth rates holding strong and well ahead of previous years.

It is no surprise that growth rates are now beginning to fall back as the days get shorter and temperatures fall.

Grass growth

According to PastureBase Ireland, growth rates are currently 43kg dry matter [DM]/ha in Leinster, 45kg DM/ha in Munster, 40kg DM/ha in Connacht and 43kg DM/ha in Ulster.

Compared to last week’s grass growth rates, there has been an average growth reduction of 8.5kg DM/ha across the provinces.

Should I house cows?

Many farmers will have seen cows starting to cause some damage after the recent heavy rainfall experienced in most western counties.

Every farm is different and every farmer will know if their farm/paddocks are more prone to poaching.

Poaching paddocks at this time of the year will impact growth rates over the winter and the following spring.

To avoid poaching of paddocks you should try:

  • On-off grazing;
  • Use spur roadways;
  • Strip graze paddocks;
  • Use a back fence.

Adopting some of these grazing management techniques will help to protect ground condition and continue your grazing rotation.

Housing animals full-time now will mean that your rotation will stop and your targets will not be met.

This will have an impact on grass covers in spring 2022. You should continue to try and offer cows some grass each day.

Allow cows out for three or four hours after milking to graze before housing. You can make spur roadways along fence lines or hedges to access paddocks and prevent significant damage.

Most farmers will have used their techniques in the spring and understand how useful they can be to keep cows at grass.

Example of spur roadway

Along with increasing production costs, housing cows now will mean you will have a lot of heavy cover in spring. It will be difficult to graze out these paddocks correctly and hit residual with freshly calved cows.

If ground condition deteriorates further and silage is plentiful, you should house your cows.

The targets are, just targets; if you do not reach them you will just have to graze heavy covers in the spring.