Should I roll my damaged paddocks?

After what can be described as one of the worst winters on record, it seems we have turned a corner with good, dry, sunny weather forecast for the next few days.

However, the inclement weather experienced over the last few weeks has left its mark on paddocks all over the country. Where farmers were forced to turn cattle into paddocks, some swards have now been badly poached.

The question is now: Do I roll my damaged paddocks or is there anything I can do to help these swards recover?

The answer is no; paddocks should be left to recover on their own, as grass has the ability to regenerate itself.

Speaking at a recent Irish Grass Association (IGA) grazing infrastructure event in Tuam, Co. Galway, UCD’s Bridget Lynch outlined that paddocks will recover very well with no intervention.

UCD’s Bridget Lynch speaking at the Irish Grassland Association’s grazing infrastructure event

She said: “We’re heading into peak growth and peak tillering; a lot of these swards will recover quite well if farmers just leave them be.

“We don’t want to be mechanically going at them with regards to rolling. If farmers do too much mechanical work, there is going to be a negative impact on regrowth.”

However, the UCD lecturer indicated – where paddocks have received severe poaching – farmers should broadcast grass seed on these “hotspot” areas.

“Maybe where farmers had spur roadways or particular damage around entries, exits and water troughs, throwing out a tetraploid mix by hand can be very effective. Tetraploid seed has a larger seed size, so it will have a better soil-to-seed contact,” she explained.

Commenting on the situation that some – if not all – farmers found themselves in this spring, she said: “If farmers have paddocks that were grazed poorly in the first rotation – if these were grazed when it was wet and there’s a higher residual than desired – these paddocks could be earmarked for bales.

“It is important to get it cut early and get the paddocks back in the rotation quickly,” she added.

Dealing with weeds

Where swards have been poached, this can encourage the growth of weeds in paddocks.

On this, Bridget said: “What I have found in previous years is where we have pushed grazing in the spring time and where you get a lot of damage, this can promote the growth of weeds.

“So, keeping an eye on this is important. If there is a lot of weeds present, addressing them at an earlier growth stage is vital,” she concluded.