Last week, farmers looked out in despair at their grazed paddocks which showed very slow signs of grass growth.
This was largely due to the low day-time temperatures and cold nights which resulted in a dip in grass-growth rates.
Previously, grass growth had been running ahead of growth rates for 2018 and the five-year average.
Despite this week’s high temperatures, PastureBase Ireland figures show that grass-growth rates for last week were running at 67kg DM/ha on average, while this week they are running below this at 61kg DM/ha on average.
This will be greatly appreciated by some farmers in the midlands, who are currently experiencing a water deficit.
According to Met Éireann, the soil moisture deficits (SMDs) in well and moderately-drained soils are ranging from 10mm to 23mm and in poorly drained soils from 4mm to 24mm.
With these high-growth rates in mind, farmers need to be keeping a close eye on their average farm cover and on pre-grazing yields to ensure grass is kept under control and grass-quality is maintained.
Maintaining grass quality
We are coming into the time of year when grass begins to enter the reproductive phase – when grass quality begins to decline.
Mid-season management is critical for maintaining grass quality and in turn high-milk production.
- Maintain a target post-grazing residual of 4cm;
- Maintain a target pre-grazing yield of 1,400kg DM/ha;
- Maintain a rotation length of 18-21 days;
- Cut surplus bales from the poorer-quality paddocks;
- Walk the farm twice weekly or more to monitor grass supply and grass-growth rates.
Where paddocks are cut for silage, you must remember what comes off must go back – particularly potassium (K).
Slurry is a cheap and very useful fertiliser to replace off-takes – after cutting paddocks for silage – so should be used wisely.