Grass measuring delivers the goods for Co. Galway farmer

Niall O’Meara runs a herd of mainly Limousin and Simmental cows outside Eyrecourt, Ballinasloe, Co. Galway.

The farm is home to a herd of 35 suckler cows, which are calved under an autumn-calving system. Calving kicks off in August and runs until October. businesses’

Male progeny from the herd are sold as weanlings and a number of heifers are maintained as replacements. In the near future, O’Meara aims to increase cow numbers to 40.

Some 10 years ago, he first started to measure grass on his 60ac farm – a decision that has proved to be beneficial from a production and financial point of view.

Last year, his farm grew over 13t/ha of grass; nearly 11t/ha of grass has been produced thus far in 2017.

Speaking to AgriLand, he admitted that grass measuring was daunting at first as he was using an old system from Teagasc.

However, he said, the new PastureBase system is a lot easier to use; it allows him to compare the performance of his farm – in terms of grass growth – with other farms in Co. Galway.

Niall O’Meara pictured at last week’s National Ploughing Championships

“It’s live and I can see updates weekly from other farms; it’s a great system.”

O’Meara also touched on the benefits he has seen since he began to measure grass, saying: “Over the last number of years, I have probably doubled my farm output because of grass measurement and management.”

In addition, he has found that the quality of silage produced on his farm has improved and the quantity coming from surplus grass has increased.

I made 300 bales last year and I tested three different batches for quality; they came in at 74-77% DMD (dry matter digestibility).

The importance of grazing infrastructure

Grazing infrastructure also plays a central role on the farm – especially in the wet weather conditions that have become all too common of late.

O’Meara’s farm is currently stocked at 2.1LU/ha and is laid out in 45 paddocks – each measuring 0.5ha.

He explained: “In wet conditions, the stock are limited to a maximum of 2ha of ground per day. I wouldn’t force the stock to graze out when conditions are difficult.

“If it lashes rain, there’s only 2ha of the farm damaged and the paddock system gives it a great opportunity to recover.”