Lower stocking rates, along with reported “high growth rates”, are forcing farmers to take paddocks out as surpluses, AgriLand can report.

With the first cut of silage made on many farms around the country, stocking rates have dropped, farmers have said.

Growth rates are greater than demand on many farms, meaning that farmers are regularly making baled silage, from grass surpluses.

One farmer commented on how the silage bales being made from these surpluses are of “high quality”.

Eastern ground ‘drying up’

One dairy man in Co. Louth has reported: “The ground is beginning to crack up very badly at this stage. Rain is wanted here.

“However, growth rate is still ahead of demand. I walked the farm yesterday and measured 79kg DM/ha/day growing. I expect this to drop if I don’t get rain here soon,” he said.

The first cut on this farm was made during the last week of April, and the second cut was completed yesterday.

The milking block currently has an Average Farm Cover (AFC) of 779kg DM/ha. The Stocking Rate (SR) is 5.1 LU/ha, meaning that the cover/LU is 153kg DM.

The Pre-Grazing Sward Height (PGSH) is 1,569kg DM/ha. Rotation length is 21 days.

A lot of topping has been carried out recently, in order to maintain sward quality.

Milk yield decrease

Due to the decrease in grass quality, milk yield has dropped. Cows have gone from 26L to 23L/day. 3kg of meal/cow is being fed, the farmer noted.

Weed problems

“Due to the low milk price witnessed last year, I didn’t spray any weeds. This has led to a lot of docks and chickweed in paddocks. I have been routinely spraying this year.”

‘Perfect mix of conditions’ in the west

A farmer in Co. Mayo has reported “perfect conditions” for growing grass.

“Rain on Wednesday evening, along with the warm weather today, has meant conditions here are quite clammy,” the farmer said.

Current growth rate is 70kg DM/ha/day. Demand is 51kg DM/ha/day. The first cut was complete on May 25, and surpluses are being taken out on a continuous basis. Target PGSH is 1,300-1,400kg DM/ha.

AFC is 470kg DM/ha and we’re stocked at 3.1 LU/ha. This leaves 148kg DM/LU. I’m operating off a 21-day rotation here.

“Ideal growth conditions have meant that the topper had to come out last week. I use a disc mower, as I believe that I get better quality regrowth from it, compared to a topper,” the farmer said.

The farmer added that the “stemmy regrowth” has meant a decrease in milk protein percentage. “Protein has gone from 3.36% to 3.27% in a short space of time. Milk yield has stayed steady.”

‘Excess slurry has caused dock problem’

The farmer has been in derogation this year and says that the increase in slurry being spread on the land is causing a dock problem. He says that he will get this under control through routine spraying.

Southern growth slowing up

Our farmer in the south of the country this week reported a decrease in growth rate. A rate of 82kg DM/ha/day was recorded two weeks ago but this has dropped back to 59kg DM/ha this week. This figure is almost in line with a demand of 61kg DM/ha/day.

This growth decrease has occurred because of the exceptionally wet conditions in recent times.

“However, Wednesday was quite warm and it’s supposed to pick up for the weekend,” he added.

The farmer’s AFC is 692kg DM/ha and the SR is 3.86LU/ha. 179kg DM/LU is available.

He said: “I have lowered my target PGSH from 1,450kg DM/ha to 1,300kg DM/ha. Grass is getting very stemmy and I believe grazing it at a lower cover will mean grazing more leaf.

“The cows are leaving a residual of 125kg DM/ha behind them. I am having to top paddocks since last Saturday. There is a slight grass deficit at the moment but I believe I can eat into my AFC for another day or two.”

He concluded: “I think I will do a lot of baling here in the next month.”