Survey: 60% of farmers ‘expect impact on milk supply due to dry spell’

Farmers are being urged to take prompt action to assess and manage farm grass covers due to a reduction in growth.

This follows surveys carried out by Glanbia Ireland’s technical advisory team of almost 150 suppliers, representing the full milk pool across the processor’s catchment area.

The studies, conducted over the past fortnight, found that grass growth has been impacted, according to Glanbia.

In a result summary, the dairy giant’s surveys found:
  • Around 82% expect grass growth and 60% expect milk supply to be impacted by soil moisture deficits over the coming weeks;
  • Around 14% of farms surveyed are feeding silage as a buffer feed. It is likely this has continued to increase due to rapidly changing growth conditions on some farms;
  • Grass growth recorded over the past week ranged from 20-85kg DM/ha (average 52kg DM/ha);
  • A small percentage of farms in Munster surveyed are feeding additional forage supplements, while a significantly larger percentage of buffer feeding is happening in Leinster.

Glanbia Ireland’s team of technical advisors are working to aid farmers in making strategic interventions to manage the level of grass cover ahead of cows and rotation lengths, the processor has announced.

In most of the country, soil moisture deficits currently range from 40mm to 70mm for all soil-types, according to figures from Met Éireann. With little rainfall forecast for the coming week, deficits are likely to increase further.

In a 100-cow herd, currently yielding 26L/day, the difference between a decline of 3% per week and 2.5% per week would be a loss of over €7,000 between now and the end of lactation at current milk price, the processor noted.

Glanbia Ireland’s technical team is advising farmers that there are a number of proactive steps that can be taken to protect milk yield and help safeguard grass growth.

Farmers are being urged to extend rotation length to 24-25 days, maintain a minimum farm cover of 500kg DM/ha, walk the farm more regularly to monitor growth and make good timely weather-based decisions.

In further commentary, the dairy giant offered advice to farmers on grassland management.

Grassland management and nutrition:
  • Grass demand is driven predominantly by stocking rates. Demand should match growth on the platform. If demand exceeds growth, the deficit will grow. To decrease demand: Bring back in uncut silage ground into the rotation if cover is less than 2,500kg DM/ha. Strip-graze to achieve good utilisation. Prioritise lactating cows over dry stock and young stock as alternative diets can be used;
  • Maintain post grazing residuals of 4cm. Over-grazing will impede recovery, especially in dry conditions;
  • Maintain fertiliser N applications while the farm is still green;
  • Where slurry is not applied or delayed it is important to use phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) with nitrogen (N);
  • Early intervention and strategic use of concentrate is advisable to retain the integrity and structure of the normal grazing rotation;
  • When available grass falls below 12kg DM/cow/day there is a requirement to introduce incremental forage in conjunction with concentrates/straights;
  • When grass availability falls to 60% or less of dry matter intake (DMI), a good source of long fibre is critical to sustain milk solids and rumen function. The most ideal product for this purpose is alfalfa. A limited quantity of alfalfa is available and farmers that need the product should engage with their Glanbia representative as early as possible;
  • In severe deficit situations consider confining dry stock and using a combination of silage, concentrates/straight to preserve grass for high-priority stock.