GrowthWatch: Managing tricky grazing conditions

By Teagasc’s Seán Cummins and James Fitzgerald

The target for mid-August is to have approximately 25 days of grass ahead of your stock. This will be built up gradually to 35 days ahead – by mid-September – to provide adequate grass for grazing later in the autumn.

Grass growth rates across the country are still relatively good, which should help make the building up of autumn grass easier.

As weather and ground conditions become more challenging, aim to get the last of the machinery work done at the first opportunity.

Many of the Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef Programme farms are spreading their last round of fertiliser at the moment, as the response from this fertiliser is far better now than what it will be closer to the September 15 closing date.

Also, ground conditions on the majority of the farms are more favourable now than what is to be expected in a month’s time.

Extreme rainfall levels – as seen mostly in the south and south-west – are having a profound effect on many a farm’s grazing plans.

If you find yourself in this situation, the best course of action to take is as follows:

  • Walk the farm regularly to identify what ground is solid enough to graze;
  • Graze smaller areas and aim to move the cattle to fresh grazing every day;
  • Make maximum use of farm roadways and different field entrances to limit poaching as much as possible;
  • If forced to house stock, remember to be flexible and turn them back out at the first opportunity.

Aidan Maguire, Navan, Co. Meath:
  • Growth: 83kg DM/ha/day;
  • Demand: 37kg DM/ha/day;
  • Average farm cover: 893kg DM/ha/day;
  • Stocking rate: 2.52LU/ha.

For this day of the year, the aim is to have as close to 25 days’ grazing ahead of the cattle at a stocking rate of 2.5LU/ha.

I have managed to meet that target with two paddocks to spare, with each having approximately 2,000kg DM/ha covers. What I do with these two paddocks is weather dependent.

If the weather gives a chance, I might cut and bale them and – if not – I will give them a quick grazing and top them off. I would prefer to cut them as it would be a better use of the grass and would help to keep me in line with where I need to be.

Grass growth rates are still very high at 83kg DM/ha/day due in part to the humid weather we have been getting.

The spring-born calves are getting 1kg of meal each at grass now that the feeding value in the grass is deteriorating.

I have also picked out 14 spring of 2019 born heifers for finishing. They are averaging 460kg in weight and have started on 2kg of meal each which will be built up to 5-6kg over the coming weeks. The aim is to kill them off grass at the start of November.

JP Hammersley, Lattin, Co. Tipperary:
  • Growth: 63kg DM/ha/day;
  • Demand: 31kg DM/ha/day;
  • Average farm cover: 636kg DM/ha/day;
  • Stocking rate: 2.23LU/ha.

Conditions are starting to get a little tricky with all the rain we’ve had over recent days, and wetter parts of the farm are becoming challenging.

A growth rate of 63kg DM/ha has been recorded over the past week, while demand – which has reduced with the last of the third-season being slaughtered – is sitting at 2.23LU/ha.

With the change in the weather we’ve seen over recent days, I’ve made the decision to re-introduce meal back to the calves.

With the quantity of rain that’s falling, grass dry matter levels are bound to be affected and I want to try and maintain calf performance until housing.

I feel, given that we’re potentially looking at dry matters below 14%, it would be too big of an ask to ask calves to rely solely on grass for their energy needs.

As the month progresses, I’m watching grass covers very closely – and even though it’s getting a little late in the season – where I can and average farm cover allows, I’ll take a couple more paddocks out in the form of surplus bales.

However, this will depend largely on how the weather picks up after this week’s stormy conditions and what way growth conditions remain.

In terms of fertiliser, I’ve a applied a mixture of 18:6:12 and protected urea over the last round and I hope to go with one more round of protected urea (23un/ac) after each grazing to help build grass covers going into the close of the year.