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.

However, rain is forecasted for tomorrow, Friday, May 17, so it is expected that grass growth will be hitting between 80-100kg DM/ha this weekend and into next week.

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.

Grazing advice mid-season:
  • 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.