The high grass growth rates witnessed over the past six weeks have finally subsided, farmers around the country have reported.

Along with the fall-off in grass growth, dairy farmers report decreases of up to 5L/cow/day, compared to peak yields one month ago.

South-east growth slowing down

Growth in the sunny south-east dropped from 80kg DM/ha/day in mid-May all the way back to 58kg DM/ha/day last Thursday, June 29, one dairy farmer reported.

The farmer is milking 160 cows on 60.8 hectares.

The dairy man believes this is normal for his farm as autumn looms. However, he says the trend may be different for farms further north.

Farms further up the country that are a bit heavier tend to grow more grass in the summer and a bit less during the shoulders of the year. More grass is grown down south in the shoulders – growth is more evenly distributed.

The farmer believes this burst of summer growth up the country requires the highest standard of grassland management.

He recorded an average farm cover (AFC) of 610kg DM/ha, along with a stocking rate (SR) of 3.05 livestock units (LU)/ha. This means there is 200kg/LU available.

“The reason for the high cover per LU is because of the fact that there is no planned second cut on this farm. Second-cut silage is made from surpluses on the milking block and this is possible due to our low SR and high cover per LU,” the farmer said.

Bales are made every second week on the farm.

“The pre-grazing yield (PGY) is 1,200kg DM/ha and rotation length is 19 days. The reason for these lowish figures is to maintain grass quality,” the dairy man added.

Cow performance dropping

Cows are currently in 24-hour blocks. Ideally they would be in 36-hour blocks but this issue has been brought about by expansion.

The farmer added: “Cows are producing 22L (1.8kg milk solids (MS)/cow/day) now, compared to 27L (2.1kg MS/cow/day) a number of weeks ago. No meal has been fed in quite a while. I usually feed 400kg concentrates in total – 200kg in spring and 200kg in autumn.

“The drop in milk yield is in line with the predicted 10% decrease per month after peak yield.”

Spraying docks over west restricts growth

A Co. Galway farmer has seen covers increase slightly over the past couple of weeks. However, the farmer has been busy spraying docks and believes that this has caused a growth check in his swards.

The Galway man, who was happy with the outcome of the Leinster final against Wexford over the weekend, is currently milking 84 cows on a 24ha milking block.

He recorded an AFC of 630kg DM/ha last week, with 180kg/LU available.

The farmer says that the cover/LU has increased from 150kg/LU in the past few weeks.

“Cows are entering paddocks of 1,400-1,500kg DM/ha. We’re stocked at 3.5 LU/ha so we need to have the pre-grazing height at this,” he said.

Demand/ha/day is 63kg DM and growth is 65kg DM – supply is exceeding demand.

“The growth rates seen last week are a big fall-off from a month ago – I recorded 110kg DM/ha/day one day in May.”

Cow performance

The farmer told AgriLand how in the space of 10 days, yield significantly decreased.

“Cows peaked at 29L (2kg MS/cow/day) and have since fallen back to 23L (1.7kg MS/cow/day),” he said.

Cavan farm growing 79kg

Growth on a Co. Cavan dairy farm was 79kg DM/ha/day last week. With demand at 57kg, this places the farmer in a position to take out surpluses.

There is 150kg/LU available and cows are being supplemented 1kg of meal.

PGY is 1,250kg DM/ha. “This is a bit on the low side but is done to maintain quality,” the farmer said.