Pat Brennan runs a dairy herd in Ballyouskill, Co. Kilkenny. We spoke to Pat about his dairy enterprise, reseeding and how he maximises grass utilisation on his farm.
“We’re focused on a mix of British and Holstein Friesian, using high EBI bulls on spring-calving dairy cows at the moment.
“We rear all our own replacement heifers. We sell 20 to 30 surplus heifers every year. We have 125ac on the home block that we also cut silage off.”
James Fitzpatrick is Pat’s Glanbia Ireland business manager. Pat believes that they have forged a very strong relationship and having access to James’ expertise is a unique point of difference that Glanbia offers.
“Myself and James have a great working relationship. It’s always great to have a second opinion, even if you’re going through soil analysis results or just to get a second opinion on targeting certain fields that maybe need attention. He’s always only a phone call away,” Pat explained.
Maximising DM per hectare
When it comes to growing quality grass, Pat is heavily focused on maximising DM per hectare to ensure that he is utilising his most valuable resource.
“We try to grow as much grass as possible. Last year, we grew 14t of dry matter over the grazing platform at home. We try to let the cows out as early as possible, usually February, but it varies from year to year. This year, February was fairly wet, so it was the last week of February before we got the cows out by day.
“Grass is our cheapest and healthiest resource to produce milk. We aim to maximise the amount of days that the cows are out on grass.
“Obviously, in the shoulders of the year, I would have to supplement their diet with meal or silage, but ultimately we try to get the most from the grass,” Pat added.
Pat believes that maintaining the correct soil fertility is the initial building block when it comes to producing grass and grassland management. He carries out regular soil testing on his farm to ensure that the soil has everything it needs and so that corrective measures can be implemented on time if required.
“If your soil fertility is not up to scratch, you’re not going to grow as much grass as you can. We’re in derogation, so we soil test every two years through that, especially on the grazing block, just to keep on top of it. We soil tested the farm in November.
“The grazing platform where the cows are, our P’s are all index 3 and 4. Same with K on the grazing platform. There’s a couple of silage fields that were a bit lower at index 2, but we put out a bag of potash there to correct that. Soil pH was very good. There’s grazing out farm where the young stock are; it needs a bit lime, but it’s not too much.”
Grass measuring forms an integral part of Pat’s process when it comes to grass budgeting and determining paddocks for silage ground.
“We would grass measure and walk the fields at least once a week using a Grasshopper plate metre, maybe twice a week during windows of intense growth, just to keep on top of it.
“I’m constantly trying to ensure that the cows are going into the right covers. Through grass measuring, you can foresee a problem before it becomes a real issue. For example, if grass growth declines a bit or fluctuates, you can feed a buffer or increased meal just to carry over that period. Likewise, surplus bales, if there’s too much grass,” Pat expained.
When it comes to reseeding as part of the grassland management plan, Pat tries to carry out reseeding on the poorer producing paddocks each year to improve his overall yield over time. He said: “We’d always try to reseed a certain amount every year. Measuring grass allows us to identify poor performing paddocks.”
In the following video, grass seed technical advisor, Phil Meaney gives tips on reseeding:
Pat sees many positive benefits when it comes to regular reseeding and employs a min-till system. “On reseeded pasture, you can see stronger growth rates, especially in the spring,” he commented.
“Re-growths are also a lot quicker. You’re getting more grass. You’re getting a better response to your fertiliser as well. We generally cut a light cut of bales or a tight grazing; let the field’s regrowth free up a bit, and then spray it off and go back and stitch in then with grass seed and apply 2t of lime per acre as well, just to neutralise the acid from thrash decomposing.
“It tends to turn acidic when you spray it off. Then we apply two to three bags of 10:10:20 just to give the grass seed a kick start and roll it. That’s kind of it then; we just hope for the rain. Once the weed seedlings are up, we spray it off with a clover-safe spray and that generally works pretty well. You’d have a good, clean pasture after that.”
Watch the video below for some information about the methods for reseeding:
When selecting a grass seed, Pat tries to match the soil suitability to what the grass will be used for.
“I would look at what the grass will be used for; a silage field, two grazings, two cuts or one cut or for intensive grazing. That will largely determine the variety I will select. I also look for plenty of clover in the new grass to reduce our reliance on nitrogen,” he explains.
In the future, Pat plans to look at multi-species swards.
In the video below, Phil Meaney discusses clover – its impact and how to manage it:
When it comes to future plans, Pat is keen to maximise efficiencies on his farm. “We have invested heavily over the last couple of years between accommodation, milking infrastructure and calf-rearing facilities. We’re happy enough that way.
We want to continue to improve on our grass utilisation. At the moment, the cows are producing about 34L on average across the herd. Milk solids are just shy of 2.6kg at the moment.
“Last year, we produced, on average, about 7,500L per cow. Our milk solids were at 585. At the moment, the cows are receiving 3kg of GAIN Premium Dairy 15% in parlour, along with a small buffer of 1.5kg meal, 0.5kg of straw and 10kg fresh weight of maize silage. This will be reduced as grass growth meets demand.”
GAIN Momentum Programme
The new GAIN Momentum Programme was launched this spring. The objective of this programme is to add tangible value, increase efficiency, environmental performance and profitability on farm.
This is a results-driven integrated programme comprising four main categories: Great Grass; Herd Nutrition; Herd Health; and Milk Solids. Great Grass focuses on enhancing soil nutrition and maximising grassland yields; to assist with this we focus particular attention on, soil analysis, forage analysis and grass analysis.
For more information on our GAIN Momentum Programme click on the link here to our brochure here.
For more information on our Great Grass programme please contact your Glanbia Ireland representative, branch or visit glanbiaconnect.com.