GrowthWatch: Grass growth exceeding demand scenario welcomed

By Teagasc’s Seán Cummins and James Fitzgerald

Across the Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef Programme farms the rate at which grass is growing is 53kg DM/ha/day.

The demand that the cattle have for grass is 42kg DM/ha/day, so growth is exceeding demand by 11kg DM/ha/day.

This is a welcome scenario relative to the drought conditions and reduced grass growth rates that parts of the country experienced in weeks gone by.

Grass growth exceeding demand gives us the opportunity to think in terms of maximising the quality of the grass we offer our stock through skipping and baling heavy covers, without being fearful of running out of grass.

Aim to be consistently letting stock into covers of 1,400kg DM/ha (9-10cm) and moving them on again after two-to-three days when they have grazed the grass down to 4cm in height.

To do this, you will need a minimum of eight different grazing divisions per group of livestock on your farm. The easiest way to achieve this is to first ensure that you have a low number of different grazing groups on your farm before deciding to subdivide fields.

Over the dry spell gone by, many farms held off on their plans to reseed as they felt that the weather and soil conditions were too dry. The return of more favourable reseeding conditions should now be capitalised on.

Aim to complete your reseeding plans within the next three weeks as the longer day length and higher soil temperatures of late July / early August are favourable over the colder and darker conditions we will have later in the autumn.

Martin Connolly, Castleplunket, Co. Roscommon:
  • Growth: 66kg DM/ha/day;
  • Demand: 25kg DM/ha/day;
  • Average farm cover: 842kg DM/ha/day;
  • Stocking rate: 1.8LU/ha.

The second-cut silage was harvested almost three weeks ago and – at the moment – I am putting in some water troughs in the silage ground so that I can get the best use out of the aftergrass which is coming back fast.

There is already a cover of circa 1,000kg DM/ha on these fields so the calves will be moving into the first paddocks of it once the water is set up.

The calves will continue to receive meal while on this aftergrass to ensure that their stomachs don’t become upset by the lack of fibre in their diet.

The stocking rate of the grazing area is falling as the silage ground comes back in for grazing and so I am cutting and baling, and grazing ground that goes too heavy.

Another 28 bales were picked up from 3ha in this way last week which is tidying up the grazing ground and banking some good winter feed all at once.

With the pressure being released off the grazing ground I have plans to reseed 3ha after the next grazing at the end of this month once conditions are favourable.

Ciaran Bartley, Boher, Co. Limerick::
  • Growth: 84kg DM/ha/day;
  • Demand: 61kg DM/ha/day;
  • Average farm cover: 1,145kg DM/ha/day;
  • Stocking rate: 5.31LU/ha.

A growth rate of 84kg DM/ha has been recorded over the last seven days and demand is running at 61kg DM/ha.

The rain on Monday and Tuesday of last week did start to make things difficult in some parts of the farm, but hopefully with the weather that’s given this will improve again.

Although the average farm cover is a little high, the swards in front of the cattle are quality, with very little stem.

We baled the second-cut silage over the weekend and it yielded 10 bales/ac. This ground is low for lime, so I’m hoping to get 2t/ac of lime spread over the coming weeks while ground conditions hold up well.

I’m spreading 30un/ac of protected urea after grazing and this is helping to keep grass growing. The calves are really starting to motor through grass and once I move the strong bunch to the after grass from the second cut, they’ll probably come off meal.