Moorepark ’19: ‘If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it’

“If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it – whether it is milk recording or fertility; it’s the same with grass. Unless you measure it, you can’t make an impression on it.”

This was the message from Teagasc’s Michael O’Donovan at the Moorepark ’19 Open Day earlier today.

Explaining the importance of utilising the grass available, he said that for every extra 1t of DM/ha utilised, it’s worth approximately €173t DM/ha to the system – net profit.

He said: “Grass is the protein source inside the farm gate. Ultimately, what dairy farmers need to do is minimise the amount of bought-in feed and maximise what you have inside on your farm – grass.

“A key question that a farmer has to ask themselves is: How much grass are they growing on their farms?”

He explained that there is an 8t DM/ha difference between farms on PastureBase Ireland and the top-performing farms in terms of grass growth which have a longer grazing season and good soil fertility.

“I rang a man to buy a car last week and he said the age of the car doesn’t matter once it’s well serviced.

If the grass and the soil is well serviced, the age of the sward doesn’t matter. That means good soil fertility, good soil pH and high potassium and phosphorus.

Touching on infrastructure, he said: “If you want to get cows to grass, you don’t have to have a motorway, but you have to have a road way – and especially last year where grass got tight and wet; grass got wasted and that’s expensive.

“Farmers need to target 30+ walks/year; you need to walk the farm to know how much it grows,” he added.

“Early April should be targeted as the end of the first rotation and stocking rate is linked to grass output, while concentrate input is linked to grass demand.”

An important point to note is that national average farms grow 4t DM/ha less than PastureBase Ireland farms – purely because where you don’t have measurement, you can’t improve grazing management, he said.

Our motto here is: If you measure, you can improve your management and then respond.

Looking at PastureBase Ireland 2017 data, Michael highlighted that 30% of farms grew 14t DM/ha and 11% grew 17t DM/ha.

Michael was also joined on the stand by Michael Egan. He outlined a roadmap to utilising more grass based on a farm utilising 13t DM/ha and stocked at 2.8LU/ha.

He also outlined autumn and spring-grazing management practices and highlighted that farmers will need to focus on autumn-grazing management in the coming weeks.

Autumn/spring grazing management:
  • Peak autumn cover (early October) 450kg DM/cow;
  • Closing cover: 650-750kg DM/ha (December 1);
  • Opening farm cover (>1,000kg DM/ha);
  • Spring grass availability: +64kg milk solids/ha and 200kg less silage fed/ha – end of April;
  • Second rotation early April: 550kg DM/ha;
  • Silage reserve: 400kg DM/cow.