GrowthWatch: Rain gives respite, but growth still slow

By Teagasc’s Seán Cummins and James Fitzgerald

The rain that fell towards the latter end of last week did provide some respite in places from what has been an exceptionally dry May – particularly along the eastern seaboard.

Despite this, growth has remained slow on the Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef Programme farms over recent days.

Some spike in growth is expected this week on account of the increasing temperatures. The extent of this, however, will vary from farm to farm and will be reliant on the level of fertilisation to date, the current position of the soil moisture deficit and the quantities of rain received over recent days.

Where growth remains slow, it’s important to hold the rotation length at 21-25 days. Where enough grass isn’t available on farm, baled silage may have to be supplemented or concentrates may need to be introduced earlier to stock targeted for finishing.

In addition, some of the earlier turned out grass cattle may be warming up earlier than anticipated. If these animals are fit to kill and grass is becoming scare, there may be an opportunity to market stock and reduce the demand for grass.

However, the above will all depend on the situation on the ground and the best way to evaluate this is to get out and walk the farm.

Although the dry May has some farmers questioning whether or not we are in for a drought, it did provide an excellent opportunity to get first-cut silage completed earlier than usual.

This early harvesting will provide an opportunity to lower the stocking rate on the grazing ground by bringing a proportion of this ground back into grazing and stretch the rotation on the farm, where silage supplies and budgets allow.

Shane Cranny, Myshall, Co. Carlow
  • Growth: 43kg DM/ha;
  • Demand: 32kg DM/ha;
  • Farm cover: 377kg DM/ha;
  • Stocking rate: 2.48LU/ha;
  • Days ahead: 12.

Animals are split into three groups for the grazing season here: autumn-born dairy-beef calves; stores; and suckler cows and calves.

Growth has been slow since the start of the year and we’ve yet to reach the position of taking paddocks out as surplus bales.

However, growth has matched demand nearly the whole way through and we’ve been able to keep ideal covers (circa1,000 kg DM/ha) ahead of stock. In terms of fertiliser, grazing ground has received an average of 123 units/ac of N so far in the form of urea and SulCAN.

As the grazing season progresses and silage ground comes back into the rotation, I’ll be following stock around with half a bag of CAN to keep grass green and to prevent it from becoming stressed and going to head.

Reducing the stocking rate in this manner should also allow for some heavier grazing paddocks down the line to be taken as bales and reduce the need for topping.

Michael Culhane – Killaloe, Co. Clare
  • Growth: 20kg DM/ha;
  • Demand: 34kg DM/ha;
  • Farm cover: 934kg DM/ha;
  • Stocking rate: 3.2LU/ha;
  • Days ahead: 27.

The drying breeze and lack of rainfall over the last few weeks is beginning to slow down grass growth here in Killaloe.

Grass growth rate has dipped below demand for the first time this grazing season with the last measure I took. I am not in a situation where I have to take action yet, as my days grazing ahead is above target at 27 days.

At the moment, I am focused on keeping grass quality as high as possible now that grass is at its seed head stage.

I have baled 4ac of surplus grass so far which returned 23 bales of quality winter feed, while keeping these paddocks in check.

The first-cut silage is being harvested today (Wednesday, May 27) after 36 hours of a wilt. I always aim to make as much of my winter feed requirements as I can in the form of pit silage cut in late May and this year is no different.

From testing previous year’s silage, I am expecting this cut to be ~73% DMD all going to plan. I am going to use a silage additive for the first time this year to see can I improve the palatability and intake potential of the silage in any way.

I will spread lime on the silage ground at a rate of 2t/ac once harvesting is completed, as the soil test results have shown that a correction in pH is needed to improve soil fertility on this farm.

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