It may be time to complete the first grass walk of 2023 ahead of the start of calving or, for some, as calving gets underway.

The first walk of the year gives an understanding of how the farm has performed over the housed period and what cover you have ahead of you when grazing gets underway.

It is also an opportunity to repair any damage that has occurred over the winter months and to make any updates that were planned.

Grass walk

Back in the autumn, paddocks were closed in order for grazing this spring; the paddocks that were closed between October 20 and November 1, are where the cows should be going first.

These paddocks were closed for early grazing as they were the driest and have multiple access points.

Ideally, the first few paddocks that cows are turned out onto have low covers.

This is for a number of reasons, but most notably because intakes of cows just after calving will be low.

Growth over the housed period has been quite good for the most part, with these rates potentially resulting in heavier covers in these paddocks than you may have thought.

Grazing targets

Grass is the main feed on the vast majority of Irish dairy farms. Getting cows to grass early and paddocks grazed off early has a number of benefits.

Some of the benefits include:

  • Stimulated grass growth;
  • Reconditioned swards for the year ahead;
  • Reduced feed costs;
  • Increased milk output.

The grazing targets set out by Teagasc are: 30% by the end of February; 60% by March 17; and 100% by early April.

But these should be tailored to suit your farm and the weather conditions during the spring.

It appears that a number of farms across the country, but particularly in the south, have already been getting cows out to grass.