By Teagasc’s Seán Cummins and James Fitzgerald

During the month of April, focus on having a rotation length of 22-24 days. Graze down to 4cm consistently in order to maximise grass growth and quality in subsequent grazings.

The grass you are letting your stock into should be about 10cm in height (1500kg/DM/ha) on a well-stocked farm.

Ensure that you are providing the grass with the nutrients it needs to grow. Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potash (K) and sulphur (S) are all needed by the grass plant to grow efficiently throughout the summer and enhance grass quality.

Spread a compound fertiliser containing these and in line with the soil fertility of your farm.

Have enough grazing divisions on your farm. Aim to have eight divisions per grazing group. This will allow you to rotationally graze your stock – growing in three weeks and grazing in three days – which will benefit the stock, the grass and your pocket.

Grass growth on Teagasc Green Acres farms

Peter O’Hanrahan, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny:

  • Growth: 37kg DM/ha;
  • Demand: 46kg DM/ha;
  • Average farm cover: 893kg DM/ha;
  • Stocking rate: 5.1LU/ha.
grass quality
Peter O’Hanrahan

As a result of the heavy frosts at night, growth has been slower than desired over the past number of weeks.

Up until this week, it looked like we were going to have to supplement with silage to stretch the start of the second rotation and to avoid crashing the average farm cover.

All going well, growth and demand will have matched by the end of this week and it will save us the task of having to go in with silage. Growth rates have been very poor on some of the older paddocks on the farm and we’re having to juggle where we’re grazing next.

Thankfully, some of the reseeded paddocks are performing well despite the colder temperatures and it has given us an option of reducing stock on an out block and keeping grass ahead of yearlings.

In terms of fertiliser, we are following cattle with a bag of 18:6:12 per acre. This brings our artificial nitrogen to just over 64 units/ac to date on grazing ground.

Aidan Maguire, Navan, Co. Meath

  • Growth: 28kg DM/ha;
  • Demand: 30kg DM/ha;
  • Average farm cover: 619kg DM/ha;
  • Stocking rate: 2.34kg LU/ha.
grass quality
Aidan Maguire

I always find that April can be the most difficult month of the year when it comes to keeping grass in front of stock.

Earlier in the spring there is a nice flush of grass that was grown over the autumn and winter there to be grazed, but now comes the time when I am coming back over the ground for the second grazing of the year.

For me, having enough of grass grown on the fields for grazing in April is dependent on being able to stick well to the first rotation plan and not falling behind on that.

Starting grazing in a controlled way as early as possible allows for each field grazed to have up to two months of rest to recover for the second grazing, which for me is the key to getting things right in April.

The cold/dry spell has held grass growth at 25-50kgDM/ha/day over the last couple of weeks. With a change in the weather expected very soon, higher temperatures should boost grass quality and growth over the coming weeks which would be more than welcome.

To date I have about 70 units/ac of N spread across the grazing ground, the first 46 units/ac of which was urea early in the year and the rest was 18-6-12 + S during early April.

That should keep grass topped up with the P, K and S it needs for the grazing season and allow me to spread protected urea on grazing ground from here on out.

At the moment I have 5ac of the farm sprayed off and am reseeding it with a mix of grass and red clover. The plan is to continuously cut this for silage without needing to spread the levels of nitrogen on it that it would need if the red clover wasn’t there.

Hopefully, it will provide good quality silage that is very high in protein for feeding to young stock during the winter.