Just one in 500 drystock farms measuring grass

Just one in every 500 drystock farmers (0.2%) are on PastureBase Ireland (PBI), a study by Teagasc has revealed.

PBI has been in operation since January 2013 and, since then, drystock farms that are measuring regularly have grown between 10.5-12.3t DM/ha a year.

There are 200 drystock farmers on PBI out of a total of 100,000. That means drystock farms account for just 10-15% of total farms using PBI.

As well as storing valuable data on grass grown, PBI stores background data such as paddock soil fertility, grass/clover cultivar, aspect, altitude, reseeding history, soil type, drainage characteristics, and fertiliser applications.

Grass DM production on drystock farms:
  • 2013 – 10.5t DM/ha;
  • 2014 – 11.8t DM/ha;
  • 2015 – 12.3t DM/ha;
  • 2016 – 12.2t DM/ha.

The study stressed that grass production levels on drystock farms can be similar to that of dairy farms.

“While soil type has an impact, PBI data can show farms in the midlands and north-west producing higher quantities of grass DM than those in the south.

“Good grazing management can overcome many issues,” the study, led by Micheál O’Leary, added.

More grazings from each paddock during the season is a key driver of success.

It was also warned that livestock are grazing paddocks for too long – paddocks are too big – which affects regrowth. Paddock residency was recommended to be no longer than “3-4 days on drystock farms”.

Why are some drystock farms producing high quantities of grass?
  • Rotational grazing system – paddock system;
  • Good farm infrastructure, i.e. adequate size paddocks;
  • Maximising spring grazing – early turnout and finishing the first rotation on time;
  • Addressing soil fertility annually;
  • Records a farm cover weekly (>25 walks/year);
  • Making decisions weekly on the information generated after each farm cover;
  • Achieving a high number of grazings/paddock/year – top farms achieving >8 grazings/paddock/year.

Finally, the study said that producing a kg of live-weight from grazed grass costs 85% less when compared to an intensive concentrate system.