Grass growth: On an upward trend…for now

Grass growth took a slight dip during the month of June, due to the high amount of paddocks taken out for silage and slow regrowths.

While some farmers felt no effect of the mid-June grass growth pinch, others were worse affected; with some farmers turning to increasing meal feeding and even introducing silage in some instances.

However, over the past seven days or so, grass growth has taken a turn for the better and is now on an upward trend – brought on by last week’s exceptionally warm weather mixed in with some showers of rain.

This week, PastureBase Ireland figures show average grass growth rates of 69kg DM/ha in Ulster, 72kg DM/ha in Leinster, 72kg DM/ha in Munster and 72kg DM/ha in Connacht.

Although it is important to note that these are just averages and farms are growing in excess of 80kg DM/ha in some areas.

With these high-growth rates in mind, it is important that farmers keep a close eye on their average farm cover and pre-grazing yields to ensure grass is kept under control and grass-quality is maintained.

For those who felt the pinch in June and increased supplementation they need to now reduce the amount of meal being fed and utilise the grass which is available.

Maintaining grass quality

The challenge on many farms now is trying to keep green-leafy grass in front of the cows and maintain pre-grazing yields between 1,300kg DM/ha and 1,400kg DM/ha.

This can be a difficult task when growth rates are running this high and with grass heading out left, right and centre.

In order to maintain grass quality going into the subsequent rotation, heavy covers with a high amount of poor-quality stemmy grass – within the rotation – should be skipped over and closed for baled silage.

Do not allow these closed paddocks to bulk up. They need to be cut within a few days after being closed so that they are brought back into the rotation quickly.

When deciding on which paddocks to take out, keep in mind that the farm cover needs to be maintained between 160kg DM/cow and 180kg DM/cow.

Avoid grazing heavy covers with a high amount of stemmy grass. This will only cause a reduction in milk yield and milk protein.

Walk the farm twice weekly to identify paddocks which can be taken out of the rotation. The wedge is a very useful guide – during this time of year – in determining what the best move is.

Although growth rates are high, nitrogen (N) should continue to be spread following the cows. If a high amount of clover is present in the sward, less N can be spread on these paddocks.