Good grazing management during May will improve sward performance for the rest of the season.

According to CAFRE advisor Pat McCambridge: “For cattle this means grazing swards out at grass covers of around 3,000kg dry matter per hectare (9-10 cm high) and grazing out tightly down to 1,600kg dry matter per hectare (3-4cm).

“It also means matching stock numbers to the grazing potential and regularly assessing grass covers in front of the stock,” he noted.

McCambridge said: “Use grazing days ahead as a guide to grass availability and aim for 12 -15 grazing days ahead during May. A productive grass sward receiving 200 kg per hectare (160 units per acre) over the season should be well stocked. Typical stocking levels are 3.5 suckler cows and calves per hectare or 8 x 250kg stores per hectare or 5 x 400kg cattle per hectare.”

Improving fertility in the suckler herd

With the main breeding season approaching set performance targets with the aim of achieving improved breeding efficiency.

• 90% of cows to calve within 12 weeks
• A calving interval of 365 days – lost days cost €1.64 per day
• Aim for less than 5% cull for infertility

McCambridge said: “To achieve these targets cows need to be on good quality grass swards and on a rising plane of nutrition at mating time. Preferential treatment must be given to thin cows, first time calvers and late calvers.”

He added: “Get your vet to check bull fertility before the mating season begins. Sub-fertile bulls can also be responsible for fertility problems in suckler herds.Late calving cows are difficult to pull back in calving date and it is often better to cull them and replace with heifers.”

He concluded: “It may take a few years to improve the calving interval and spread of calving but it is financially worth the effort.”