GrowthWatch: Green drought spreads nationwide

By Teagasc’s Seán Cummins and James Fitzgerald

As more areas of the country are coming under pressure due to reduced rainfall, it is important for all farmers to take stock of the current grass availability on the farm, as outlined in last week’s GrowthWatch update.

If you do find that you are running out of grass, now is the time to act and not procrastinate any further. The main route to ensuring you don’t run out of grass is to reduce demand.

This can be done by selling stock that are no longer required or are fit for slaughter, grazing silage ground or by feeding alternative feeds such as silage, hay or meal.

If feeding silage/hay in the field, aim to feed along a long area so that all animals have room to eat at the one time. Continue to rotate your stock around the farm in a rotation that lasts 25-30 days.

Additionally, fewer groups of stock are easier to manage at this time. Increased meal feeding is also an option for cattle that are currently being finished and all cattle destined for slaughter in the coming weeks should be closely assessed to see if there are cattle that can be sold off the farm immediately.

Ensure that all stock have access to water at all times.

If there is rain forecasted for your area in the coming days, make sure that your sward has enough nitrogen (N) to capitalise on this and grow as quickly as possible to recover the grass deficit.

Protected urea and CAN products are suitable for use in these conditions.

JP Hammersley, Latin, Co. Tipperary
  • Growth: 30kg DM/ha/day;
  • Demand: 52kg DM/ha/day;
  • Average farm cover: 502kg DM/ha;
  • Stocking rate: 4.67LU/ha.

Growth has started to slow on account of the recent dry weather and a growth rate of 30kg DM/ha was recorded recently.

Demand is currently running at 52kg DM/ha, so we are looking at measures to try and reduce demand and maintain farm cover at circa 500kg/ha.

The 28-month Friesian bullocks are beginning to come fit and, by moving some of these, I should be able to reduce demand.

Concentrate feeding will also be introduced to the remainder of these animals over the coming days to get them moved on quicker.

I’ve also increased the quantity of meal offered to calves by 1kg/day and, if the rain doesn’t come over the next couple of days, silage will be introduced to the yearling cattle to stretch their rotation and the length of time they spend in each paddock.

Martin Connolly, Castleplunket, Co. Roscommon
  • Growth: 26kg DM/ha/day;
  • Demand/ha: 22kg DM/ha/day;
  • Average farm cover: 483kg DM/ha;
  • Stocking rate: 2.1LU/ha.

Grass growth rates have been dropping over the course of the last two weeks, as the prolonged dry spell begins to take effect.

Growth rate has reduced to 26kg DM/ha/day from a high of 95kg DM/ha/day two weeks ago. Some of the silage ground has come back in for grazing, so my demand for grass has been watered down slightly.

I’d be expecting the current grass growth rate to be maintained for a few weeks even if we don’t get rain and I will be continuing on with my normal grazing plan for now. I do realise that – at this stage – I am one of the lucky ones.

The first-cut silage was harvested on May 11 and returned a satisfactory yield. Two-thirds of this ground has been reclosed for a second cut and received a coat of slurry and three bags of CAN.

The other third (12ac) has a grass cover of 1,000kg DM/ha on it and is split up into paddocks using temporary wire. A group of this year’s calves are grazing their way through it.