Teagasc Dairy Advisor Pat Moylan has said that the extra grass grown on many dairy farms over the winter may have a negative impact on milk solids production in 2016.

Moylan spoke at a recent Teagasc organised farm walk in Co. Kilkenny, where he said that some dairy farms have 50% more grass this spring due to higher growth rates over a mild winter.

“There a huge covers on dairy farms and if we don’t graze them properly it will impact on milk solids production. Management of the first rotation will be really important.

“One of the big challenges dairy farmers face this spring is grazing higher covers.”

He said that if the first rotation is not managed correctly it will have a negative impact on grass quality as the year progresses and so it is important to get cows grazing as early as possible.


Dealing with heavy grass covers

Moylan said that cows have to get used to grazing and so freshly calved cows should not be turned out to graze heavy covers.

“These cows will have lower grass intakes, which will rise gradually over the weeks following calving,” he said.

Graze tight

He also said that farmers should aim to graze out their paddocks relatively tight (3.5-4cm) to let light into the base of the sward.

“Grass is a cheap source of feed for dairy cows. Our main message to farmers would be to get into grazing paddocks as soon as you can.”

Rotation planner

Moylan also advised farmers to use a rotation planner as this will allow them to make the best use of grass on their farms.

“Farmers should treat their farm like an apple tart and split it into sections to make it easier to graze,” he said.

Rotation planner benchmarks
  • Graze 30% of the farm by March 1
  • 60% of the farm should be grazed by March 17
  • 100% of the farm should be grazed by March 31