Grass growth: Reaching residuals becomes a struggle as silage is introduced

Many farmers have been forced to house their animals and feed silage due to the near or above average rainfall experienced countrywide this past week and over the weekend.

While some farmers are escaping fully housing their animals, others, particularly those farming on heavier ground, have had to resort to fully housing by day and night.

Unfortunately, there is no end in sight as Met Éireann is predicting rainfall amounts to continue above average for this coming week; so, conditions are not likely to improve.

Also Read: Weather warning in place as high rainfall expected

Looking at grass growth, it has taken a further dip; especially in the northern and western half of the country.

In terms of average grass growth rates, PastureBase Ireland figures are showing 29kg DM/ha in Ulster, 42kg DM/ha in Leinster, 34kg DM/ha in Connacht and 41kg DM/ha in Munster.

In some instances, where farmers have had to introduce silage, reaching residuals has become an issue. 

However, reaching residuals is hugely important this time of year for top-quality grass to be available next spring.

If a paddock is not fully grazed in the final rotation, it will be opened next spring with a proportion of dead material on it. Also, grazing paddocks out fully this time of year will stimulate grass growth for over the winter period.

Although grazing conditions are difficult, a flexible approach to grass allocation should be taken to ensure grass is kept in the cow’s diet and residuals are met.

Grazing techniques:
  • Graze in 12-hour blocks using a strip wire and a back fence;
  • Use spur roadways;
  • Graze drier paddocks or paddocks with lower covers first;
  • Graze the backs of paddocks first and then work forward;
  • Use on-off grazing – allow cows out to graze for a few hours in the morning and in the evening;
  • Graze paddocks with multiple access and exit points.

One example of how to reach residuals on farm is by allowing the whole herd onto a fresh break by night, then allowing a proportion of the herd to be housed by day, while the rest of the herd returns to that same section to clean the paddock off the next day.

30% closed off

Finally, by now farmers should have approximately 30% of the farm closed for the winter – slightly less on drier farms. It is important that these fields – which have been closed – are not re-grazed as this will affect the availability of grass next spring.

The target is to have 60% closed by November 1 – or 70% for higher stocked farms – with the remaining 40% or 30% grazed in November.

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