GrowthWatch: Grazing season comes to an end for some farms

By Teagasc’s Seán Cummins and James Fitzgerald

Keep track of the average farm cover (AFC) if still grazing. At no point over the course of November do we want the AFC to dip below 500kg DM/ha.

Research has shown that 70% of the grass that is available in the springtime is grown in the months of October and November. We need to ensure that we have 600kg DM/ha of an AFC on December 1 to provide good-quality spring grass in sufficient quantities next February and March.

If you have been forced to house your stock due to deteriorating ground conditions like much of the country has over the last couple of weeks, but yet still have a high level of grass on the farm, be flexible and willing to turn out stock to finish off grazing if ground conditions become more favourable over the coming weeks.

Note: In the map (below) Patrick Collins, Richard Long and JP Hammersley have finished grazing for the year, with all stock now housed for the winter.

Farmers with a sheep enterprise need to be mindful that the same grassland targets apply and that ensuring that grass is available in the spring is the top priority.

Do not regraze what has been closed in the final rotation and do not let the AFC dip below 500kg DM/ha. Spring grass is needed far more by all classes of stock, than what it is for dry sheep over the winter months.

Remember that although the grazing season might essentially be over on the majority of cattle farms, there are still things that can be done to strengthen your hand for next year.

The dry/cold spell promised over the coming days could provide an ideal opportunity to spread lime. Consult your nutrient management plan or recent soil samples and spread anything up to 3t of lime/ac where needs be.

Ciarán Bartley, Boher, Co. Limerick:

  • Growth: 17kg DM/ha;
  • Demand: 5kg DM/ha;
  • Average farm cover: 595kg DM/ha;
  • Stocking rate: 0.30LU/ha.

Grazing conditions have been extremely challenging since September and I’ve been watching and moving stock onto dry areas to graze where possible.

After the past two weeks though, the farm is now in a position where grazing has become next to impossible due to unfavourable underfoot conditions and the majority of the stock were housed.

Finishing steers have been housed at this stage and have started on their winter finishing diet which consists of silage (72 DMD) and 5kg of concentrates.

Half of the weanlings have also been housed at this stage and they are receiving just over 1kg/head/day of concentrates along with silage.

The remainder of the weanlings, which are being supplemented with 1kg/head/day at grass, will be housed over the coming weeks, once they have the few remaining drier paddocks grazed-off.

Michael Culhane, Killaloe, Co. Clare:

  • Growth: 11kg DM/ha;
  • Demand: 21kg DM/ha;
  • Average farm cover: 638kg DM/ha;
  • Stocking rate: 1.78 LU/ha.

Deteriorating ground conditions have led to the housing of all the heavy stock on the home block. The 18-month-old heifers and bullocks are settling in indoors while the spring-born calves are still out grazing.

The older cattle made good inroads over the last couple of weeks in grazing off the home block and have left only a couple of paddocks that the calves need to get grazed off before they too are housed. I am expecting the calves to be housed in the next five-to-seven days which will signal the end of the grazing season here.

While the temptation is there to leave the calves out and to graze back over the earlier grazed areas which are beginning to recover, housing instead and sparing this regrowth for the spring is the better course of action.