GrowthWatch: Growth and demand still finely balanced

By Teagasc’s Seán Cummins and James Fitzgerald

The rain over recent weeks has been welcomed by many farmers participating in the Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef Programme and it has brought about some bounce in grass growth rates.

However, across the farms, growth and demand still remain finely balanced. Over the past seven days an average growth rate of 44kg DM/ha was recorded, while demand sat at 43kg DM/ha.

In some areas, which were badly affected by the drought, grass is beginning to throw up seed heads and grazing quality has reduced slightly.

Where growth rates are exceeding demand and the average farm cover is in a strong position, these paddocks could be targeted for surplus bales – although this will depend on grass growth rates over the coming days.

On another note, second cut silage crops – especially for farmers who harvested first cuts in the first two weeks of May – are really starting to power ahead and some farms are on the point of harvesting, if weather conditions allowed.

Again, this will depend on the rate of N application, the nitrogen content of the pre-cut grass and its sugar content.

Peter and Thomas O’Hanrahan, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny
  • Growth: 53kg DM/ha/day;
  • Demand: 56kg DM/ha/day;
  • Farm cover: 632kg DM/ha/day;
  • Stocking rate: 5.3LU/ha.

After the rain over recent weeks, the farm has really turned a corner and silage feeding has all but stopped. Growth and demand are almost matched at this stage and the farm cover has risen to 632kg DM/ha.

We killed 16 28-month bullocks recently and they had very good fat scores. We hope to move more over the coming weeks and this will help to reduce demand and allow us to take more surplus bales later in the season if the need arises.

In terms of fertiliser, all of the grazing ground received 27units/ac of N over the past five days. Second-cut silage ground has responded well to the rain and hopefully we’ll be cutting in the next three weeks.

Irvine Allen, Moate, Co. Westmeath
  • Growth: 41kg DM/ha/day;
  • Demand: 30kg DM/ha/day;
  • Average farm cover: 727kg DM/ha;
  • Stocking rate: 1.94LU/ha.

The rain received from Thursday night onwards is really beginning to have an influence on grass growth. The dry burnt look that a lot of fields have had for the last month or so is beginning to green up even in spite of the weather being that bit colder overall.

I had a bag to the acre of 18-6-12 spread on all the farm during the dry spell and I’m guessing that this fertiliser is kicking in now that it has got some rain.

It has been really difficult to keep grass quality good over the last few weeks. Hopefully, if growth keeps going better than the demand for grass I can begin to cut and bale some paddocks to tidy the place up.

There could well be some areas that will be topped after grazing too to speed up the task of getting all the grass back to good quality.

The focus on measuring and managing the grass the calves are eating is beginning to pay off too. All calves were weighed recently as they received a worm dose.

The older and stronger half of the calves now weigh 140kg on average and the lighter and younger half average 120kg.

The target that was set for this year’s calves was to weigh 125kg on average at the end of this month. Hopefully, the good start that they have got will carry through and result in heavier carcass in two years’ time.