It’s been a challenging time this past while with the poor weather leaving ground conditions very wet and soft and making the task of spreading fertiliser very tough and impossible in many cases for farmers.

The end of this week looks as if the weather is going to clear up but the ground is going to need a few days of drying before consideration can be given to putting out fertiliser, and we need to ensure that the weather is going to be dry after application to ensure no risk of runoff or leaching.

If the weather picks up over the coming days, it would be no harm to walk the farm and identify the driest paddocks and target them for fertiliser rather than blanket spreading the whole farm – particularly in the case of wet farms.

Philip Creighton of Teagasc said that farmers should be targeting covers of 5cm (>400kg of DM/ha) with the first round application of fertiliser if ground and weather conditions are suitable, as they will have the best response to fertiliser application. Fields with covers lower than this should look at spreading slurry or farmyard manure (FYM) if possible.

He advised farmers to go in with 30kg of nitrogen (N) per hectare (or 24 units to the acre). Philip said that by applying any more than this amount, then the grass plant, over the next month or so, will just not have the capability of taking up this nitrogen and this is just going to increase the risk of losses and with the way prices are as well, it doesn’t make sense from an environmental and financial point of view to do.

In terms of stocking rates, farms stocked at up to 10 ewes/ha could look at applying 20kg/N/ha (17-20units/ac), while farms stocked up to 12 ewes/ha could look at putting out up to 30kg/N/ha (24-25 units/ac).

Philip said that anyone that hasn’t carried out a soil test recently, should think about sending in some samples for analysis.

If there is some deficiency, Philip said he would be inclined to get some N out now and getting your soil tests done and then go out in the second rotation with some compound fertiliser to address any issues.

He added that the response to nitrogen fertiliser applied is optimised when soil fertility is optimised, so if there are issues with soil fertility on the farm, the response to N will be lower.

He warned that applying significant amounts of potassium (K) at this stage of the season can trigger grass tetany. Small amounts are OK if it’s required, but the better option is to hold off applying until the second round when peak risk for grass tetany is reducing.