Grass growth: Should I graze closed up paddocks?

This time last year, many farmers across the country had already housed their animals. However, good grass growth and favourable grazing conditions have allowed farmers graze well into the back end this year.

Every blade of grass that an animal eats represents a saving on winter feed costs. Remember, grazed grass is the cheapest feed and suckler farmers must maximise the length of the grazing season.

According to Teagasc, every extra day at grass is worth €2.00 / livestock unit (LU). For example, if 30 extra days at grass are captured for 50LU, then it’s worth €3,000.

While maximising the amount of grass in animals’ diets this autumn is important, it is also crucial to keep an eye on covers for next year. This will be the grass available for cattle next spring.

Even with the rainfall that fell in some areas last weekend, grazing conditions are still favourable and many farmers may be questioning whether or not to return to graze paddocks which have already been closed.

Paddocks that were already closed have achieved good regrowths as a result of the good growing conditions.

Speaking to AgriLand, Karen Dukelow – a Teagasc beef specialist – outlined that, although the temptation to graze these paddocks may be high, it is best to leave these paddocks closed.

If these paddocks are grazed tight and growth plummets, farmers will be left with lower covers than desired next spring.

However, Karen noted that, where farmers know their target closing and opening covers, these farmers may be in a position to graze.

Source: PastureBase Ireland

Growth rates

Figures from PastureBase Ireland show that grass growth rates are strongest in the west and south, with growth rates of 40kg/ha/day and 39kg/ha/day recorded in Connacht and Munster respectively.

Meanwhile, growth rates in Leinster and Ulster are proving slightly slower to move. An average growth rate of 38kg/ha/day was recorded in Ulster, while Leinster was 36kg/ha/day

In addition, Teagasc has outlined that this is a good time of the year to tackle a potassium (K) deficiency. Paddocks allocated for silage cutting are prone to be deficient in K.

According to Teagasc, spreading one bag per acre of 0-0-50 – during October – will result in soil rising an index.