Growth Watch By Teagasc’s Seán Cummins and James Fitzgerald

Although growth rates have been slower than desired this spring, it appears that we are entering a period where the gap between growth and demand will finally stretch in favour of growth.

With moisture more normalised temperatures and the grass plants reproductive phase about to kick in, growth rates are expected to climb over the coming weeks. After the weather we’ve experienced in April and into early May, any increase in growth rate would be welcomed on farms.

Given the position we’re coming from, where many farms had to supplement silage to bridge the gap between supply and demand, walking the farm to assess grass covers should take priority.

When conditions are favourable, the grass situation on the farm can change rapidly and the only way to make the best decision is to have the information at hand from a completed grass walk.

Growth watch: ‘Spring burst’ is on its way

When the ‘spring burst’ of grass does come, corrective action may be required at farm level.

It might be premature to mention surplus bales at this point – particularly after what’s occurred over the previous month – but a focus must be kept on maintaining pre-grazing yields at 8-10cm in the weeks ahead.

Too often in times of a grass surplus, cattle are asked to graze heavier covers on farm. Not only will this have a negative impact on animal performance, the quantity of grass utilised may also be questionable, with grass left flattened behind in the paddocks.

In addition, in periods of strong growth, the problem is only pushed further down the line, resulting in heavier pre-grazing covers in subsequent paddocks due to the long residency period in the now poorly-grazed heavy paddock – potentially hitting animal performance in subsequent grazings.

In short, with growth rates expected to increase in the near future, walk the farm and assess pre-grazing covers. If growth remains slow and average farm cover is dropping, consider supplementing silage until growth does surpass demand.

Finally, when growth arrives, be prepared to act to ensure that pre-grazing yields are kept in check and animal performance can be maximised from grazed grass.

Shane Cranny, Myshall, Co. Carlow

  • Growth: 36kg DM/ha
  • Demand: 52kg DM/ha
  • Average farm cover: 425kg DM/ha
  • Stocking rate: 3.74LU/ha
Growth Watch
Shane Cranny

Growth has been lower than desired over the last couple of weeks. I’ve had to slow down demand by offering yearling stock silage when finished grazing each paddock.

A growth rate of just 36kg DM/ha/day was recorded this week, which is 28kg DM/ha/day behind the corresponding week in 2020 and less than half of the 75kg DM/ha/day that was grown in the same week in 2019.

After last weekend’s rain and the lack of frost this week, the farm is already looking greener and it should be in a position to achieve a growth rate well above demand over the coming week.

Although growth rates have been lower than desired, I’m happy enough with the silage crops currently. I am targeting a late May harvesting date, with a target of at least 72 DMD silage.

With the weather to have turned slightly more favourable, I’m hoping this ground will do at least 100kg DM/ha/day of growth between now and harvesting, which equates to at least an additional two bales/ac in bulk terms.

On fertiliser, compounds have been spread on all of the lower index ground, while 23 units/ac of urea was applied to the grazing ground in recent days.

Growth Watch
Jarlath Ruane

Farmer profile – Jarlath Ruane, Claremorris, Co. Mayo

  • Farm cover: 954
  • Growth: 41
  • Demand: 55
  • Stocking rate: 4.06

With growth still lagging behind what I would expect for this day of the year, the only focus is keeping the right amount of grass in front of stock.

The demand for grass is ever increasing, with lambs getting stronger and having a better appetite for grass and calves being turned out of the shed after weaning beginning to get in on grass also.

This week’s grass walk turned up a growth rate of 41kgDM/ha. The demand of 55kgDM/ha being higher than the growth rate means that I can expect my average farm cover of 954kgDM/ha to begin to drop throughout this week, unless growth rates improve.

With an average cover of 954kgDM/ha, I can get away with lower growth rates for another while but not indefinitely. In other years I would be baling grass in order to keep up with growth, this year so far has other plans.