Spring grazing targets ‘thrown out the window’ as rain persists

There has been almost no let up in the weather since the beginning of the spring-calving season. Most soils are either saturated or waterlogged, with some even under water; so it is safe to say that the spring-grazing targets have been thrown out the window, for most.

While the first-grazing target is to have 30% grazed by March 1, the majority of farmers are struggling to reach this.

Some farmers are reporting between 10% and 20% of area grazed, while other farmers have had very little, or no, opportunity to get their cows out since the start of calving.

On drier ground, some farmers are managing to reach close to the target grazed, but the vast majority are not.

Unfortunately, more rainfall is forecast for the rest of this week; so grazing conditions are unlikely to make any immediate improvements.

For the moment, farmers should remain positive and pay close attention to the weather forecast.

If an opportunity to get the cows out presents itself – if ground conditions allow – farmers should try to get cows out, even for a short period.

The value of early-spring grass should not be forgotten about when grazing conditions are difficult.

Everyday cows are at grass will increase farm profitability, reduce costs and enable the farm to grow more grass – through stimulating grass growth for the season ahead.

The three main objectives when grazing in wet weather, Teagasc says, are: get grass into the herd; minimise damage; and reach residuals, if possible.

Top tips for grazing in difficult conditions:
  • Walk the farm to identify the most suitable paddocks for grazing;
  • Use on-off grazing – letting cows out with an enthusiastic appetite is critical to the success of on-off grazing;
  • Graze the driest paddocks;
  • Graze paddocks with multiple access points and good access by roadways;
  • Use a strip wire and a back fence.

When conditions improve, target the lower covers first to get through the grazing area. This will stimulate grass growth and help ensure a sufficient amount of grass is available going into the second round.