Grass growth: ‘Well above average rainfall’ forces more farmers to house

Many more farmers have been forced to house their animals due to the heavy and almost persistent rain experienced across the country.

According to Met Éireann – over the past week – well above average rainfall has fallen in most parts of the country.

This has lead to a further deterioration in grazing conditions – making avoiding poaching damage and reaching residuals increasingly difficult.

The majority of soils have become saturated and waterlogged; particularly on moderately and poorly drained soils and, with more rain on the way, it is likely that more soils will soon be the same.

For this coming week, Met Éireann is predicating “rainfall totals to remain above average again in most areas with generally 1.5 times the norm – due to an unsettled Atlantic airstream – though it could be closer to normal in some north-eastern and southern areas”.

Moreover, with the slurry spreading deadline just around the corner and ground conditions less than ideal for spreading, it is looking likely that some farmers won’t get the opportunity to spread.

Where farmers have been forced to house, careful attention should be paid to house hygiene – to avoid mastitis. In addition, the best-quality silage available and 2-3kg of concentrates should be fed to help maintain milk production.

Although the rain has put a damper on things, making grazing extremely difficult in areas, it is important to remember the value of grass in the cow’s diet during this time of year.

Furthermore, it is time for farmers to start closing off paddocks for the winter – with the target being to have 60% closed by November 1 or 70% for higher stocked farms.

Also Read: Winding down the grazing season in Teagasc Ballyhaise

Where possible, farmers should try to get through area to reach this target; being flexible in your approach to grazing will help. Even allowing half or a proportion of the herd out by day and/or night to graze has its advantages.

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;
  • Use on-off grazing – allow cows out to graze for a few house in the morning and in the evening;
  • Graze paddocks with multiple access and exit points.

Looking at grass growth, it has taken a slight dip on average. In terms of average grass growth rates, PastureBase Ireland figures are showing 42kg DM/ha in Ulster, 44kg DM/ha in Leinster, 40kg DM/ha in Connacht and 46kg DM/ha in Munster.

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