Grass growth moving into surplus territory

After an outstanding weekend in many parts of the country, grass growth is moving into surplus territory in some areas.

The Teagasc PastureBase system shows that growth rates were sitting at 61kg/ha/day in Ulster, 56kg/ha/day in Connacht, 64kg/ha/day in Leinster and 59kg/ha/day in Munster on May 8.

Many farms are now finding that grass growth has exceeded demand and this may present an opportunity to take out surplus grass as high-quality bales. Where high levels of concentrate are still being offered, farmers may be able to lower the feeding rate and get more grass into the diet.

Ideally farmers should target pre-grazing covers of 1,400kg/ha (dry matter), as it corresponds to the three-leaf grass growth stage; this target applies across a range of stocking rates.

Dramatic increases above this (>1,700kg/ha) will lead to poorer grass utilisation and quality will suffer in the subsequent rotation(s).

Where ground and weather conditions allow, it may be worthwhile targeting some of the paddocks with high pre-grazing yields for surplus bales.

Image source: PastureBase

By cutting these paddocks, you can ensure that a good clean out is achieved, will not be spending money on unnecessary topping after the next grazing and will be adding valuable feed to next winter’s reserves.

As always, the above is very farm specific and any decisions should be made on the basis of a grass wedge. A grass wedge allows you to identify any surpluses or deficits easily and quickly. It’s seen by many as a vital tool for managing grazing throughout the year and particularly during periods of strong growth.

Given the strong growth witnessed over the weekend and the reasonably high soil temperatures (10-11°), farmers need to ensure that they get out and walk their paddocks multiple times each week.

Some reseeded paddocks have the potential to grow +100kg/day and walking your farm just once a week could see an abundance of grass suddenly appear on these paddocks.

The week ahead

Farmers with surplus grass to mow will be keeping a careful eye on the weather and, unfortunately, it looks to be a mixed bag over the coming days.

Today, May 10, will be mostly dry with sunny spells and just a few isolated showers, Met Eireann says. Temperatures will reach highs of 11-14° and moderate south-west to south winds will increase to become fresh to strong along Atlantic coasts by evening time.

Thursday night will be mainly dry apart from an isolated shower on coasts; but the south to southeast winds will become fresh to strong as the next weather front approaches the west coast, Met Eireann forecasts.

In addition, there’ll be rain in the west and in the south of the country by morning, quickly turning heavy. Lowest temperatures will be between 5° and 7°.

Moving to tomorrow, Friday will be a wet and windy day, Met Eireann says, and strong southerly winds will bring rain through the morning.

The rain will clear from the south-west and the west in the afternoon and that clearance will gradually spread through the rest of the country later in the day.

Temperatures on Friday will be between 10° and 12°. They’ll fall to just 2-4° degrees on Friday night, as skies clear and winds fall light.

But some recovery in temperatures is expected to be witnessed on Saturday – back to between 12° and 14°. However, with low temperatures nearby, there’ll be frequent heavy showers.

A similar day is also expected on Sunday and further showers – which will be more frequent in the afternoon – are forecast.