GrowthWatch: Beware of reduced grass quality

By Teagasc Green Acres programme advisor James Fitzgerald

The higher than normal levels of rainfall over the last number of weeks – coupled with the natural decline in grass feeding value from now on – is resulting in conditions that will lead to reduced animal thrive at grass for the rest of the year.

This is most notably seen in younger stock, such as spring-born calves, who very often do not achieve the 0.8kg/day level of weight gain needed between now and housing unless they are supplemented with meal.

The feeding value of grass reduces naturally as the autumn progresses, but this is compounded by the reality that – in many cases – younger animals are not physically able to eat enough autumn grass due to its very high-water content.

If you feel that your spring-born calves are falling into the trap outlined above, it is advisable to supplement them at grass with 0.5-1kg of ration.

This will ensure that they continue to get the energy they require to achieve the housing liveweight target that is set for them.

Irvine Allen, Mount Temple, Moate, Co. Westmeath:
  • Growth: 62kg DM/ha/day;
  • Demand: 19kg DM/ha/day;
  • Average farm cover: 989kg DM/ha/day;
  • Stocking rate: 1.0LU/ha.

The demand for grass on the home block which I am measuring is low at the moment due to having a lot of the young stock grazing the aftergrass of the second cut on the out-blocks.

70 calves and 12 older cattle are currently grazing the home block. The grass that gets ahead of them will be baled as the weather permits.

I have 12ac sprayed off which will be sown with Redstart in the coming days. This will provide winter feed for the majority of the spring 2020-born cattle if the crop yields similar to previous years.

The fields I have chosen to sow Redstart in are ones which have old pasture which could do with being improved. Better-quality grass will be sown into these fields late next spring when the Redstart is grazed. 

There are 510 bales of silage in the yard at the moment and another 35ac is being taken up for a third cut. 50 units of nitrogen (N) and slurry will be spread on this ground, and I will aim to be baling it around September 10.

This should push the bale count up over 700 bales where it needs to be.