Proactive grazing management reaps rewards on Limavady farm

The summer drought didn’t hold back Northern Irish dairy farmer Andrew Dale. Despite the challenging conditions, the farm’s heavy ground meant it was able to maintain good growth even through the worst of the dry spell.

Andrew, who farms in partnership with his father John, manages an autumn-winter herd of 110 Fleckvieh cows near Limavady.

The pair will host an AgriSearch farm walk on the topic of making the most of grass on a heavy farm on August 21, 2018, at 10:30am.

Lush growth

This year, the farm is reaping the rewards of good growing conditions across the 70ha platform. To date, grass production has been just under 9t DM/Ha.

Andrew said: “Despite the late spring, 2018 so far has been an exceptional grass growing year for us with growth being in excess of 100kg DM/Ha/day on a number of weeks since early May.

“This means we are aiming to take our third cut one month earlier than last year. This a stark contrast to last year, which meant we were housed from mid-August.”

Grazing is limited to a 15ha block for the milking herd and some young stock. To supplement this and maximise grass in the diet of his dairy cows, a second block of 16ha is zero-grazed and fed to cows during milking.

‘’Zero-grazing gives us more flexibility to bring in additional land into our platform and gives us more options when weather and ground conditions are challenging,” he explained.

Improving grazing infrastructure

Andrew is part of the GrassCheck project which involves weekly grass monitoring across 50 farms.

This data is used to help meet target pre and post-grazing covers and manage surpluses on the grazing platform.

Currently, the grazing platform is made up of seven fields split into 13 paddocks. An underpass has helped improve access to pasture and allowed Andrew to restructure his grazing.

“Before the underpass, we had distinct night and day grazing blocks,” he said.

“This meant it took a long time to graze out individual fields. Since the underpass was installed we have managed to sub-divide areas into smaller blocks and graze one field continually until its complete.”

Finishing out paddocks quicker is helping Andrew protect regrowth, which he believes is boosting grass growth on the farm.

At the event there will be the opportunity to hear about the GrassCheck project and the 2018 season so far, the farm’s grazing management approach, and options to get the most out of grass this autumn. The event will also focus on forage budgeting for the winter months.

The four farm walks will take place on the following days:

  • August 16 – Henry Stewart (Dairy), 27 West Street, Stewartstown, Co.Tyrone at 10:30am;
  • August 21 – John and Andrew Dale (Dairy), 287 Ballyquin Road, Limavady, Co. Derry at 10:30am;
  • August 21 – Wayne Acheson (Beef), Tullylagan Road, Sandholes, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone at 7:00pm;
  • August 29 – Paul and Frank Turley (Beef), 11 Struell Wells Road, Downpatrick, BT30 6RL at 6:00pm.

In the interests of biosecurity, those who are attending the farm walks are asked to wear clean clothing not previously worn while in direct contact with their own animals.