Grasstec, autumn targets not being realised on many farms

COMMENT: The dry spell we have experienced over the past month is beginning to reduce growth rates considerably on many free draining farms in Ireland and the UK.

In the northern counties there has been sufficient rain and soil temperatures are beginning to drop. Autumn budgets have been set up in August to help us target peak AFC of 1200kgs (for S.R. of 2.7 and above) for mid-late September, however achieving these targets with lower than predicted growth rates is proving difficult.

This week, Grasstec has advised several farmers to introduce/increase supplementation to reduce demand and allow covers to build. Failing to act now will result in an earlier than desired housing date!

For example, if we have a farm with an AFC of 700 (target 1000), S.R. of 3.0 and a demand of 48kgs/ha/day and we introduce 4kgs meal and 2kgs silage to slow down rotation and build covers – this will reduce demand by 6kgs per cow and 18kgs per ha, resulting in a new demand of 30kgs/ha.

If the farm grows 45kgs over the next two weeks, we are gaining 15kgs per day onto our AFC (Growth rate – demand), AFC would increase from 700 to 910 (15kgs * 14days). 

If supplement was not introduced now and AFC was below target, more silage would have to be fed in late autumn as well as housing earlier. ‘The more grass you have, the more grass you will grow’.

Above: Example of a farm in the UK with an AFC falling below target, supplement introduced immediately and budget should be on target again from end of September (total covers used in budget, minus 1500 for Irish covers.) 

  • Scanning should now be complete on many farms; selling cull cows will reduce demand (same effect as introducing supplement to full herd). 
  • Pool a dung sample from several cows and have it tested for liver fluke and rumen fluke, regardless if you have experienced either on your farm in previous years.
  • Spring born calves target weight is 180-190kgs; in calf heifers should be 400kgs.
  • Youngstock ground must be closed similar to milking platform (60% in October) so grass available in February 
  • Setup autumn rotation planner.
  • Apply slurry on grazed paddocks from early October . 

Written By Cathal Mc Aleer, consultant with Grasstec Dairy Solutions which provides a dairy consultancy, farm infrastructure design and livestock sale service in Ireland and UK. Cathal can be contacted on +44 (0)77495 31679 or [email protected]

Keep an eye out for weekly updates on all things grazing including real life examples of grass budgets through the autumn period on AgriLand.