Silage fertiliser: With ground conditions improving, silage fertiliser is being spread on many beef farms.

Nitrogen (N) is a key driver of grass growth and is essential to a good silage crop. Aim to apply 100 units/ac of N on silage fields. Recently reseeded swards have a greater ability to use N and are more efficient at converting it to grass.

Silage swards will use about 2 units/day so leave about 50 days between application and cutting. Phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) are essential for grass growth and it’s important that silage fields have adequate amounts to grow a good silage crop.

Assess your most recent soil sample results to determine what is needed.

Cattle slurry is usually applied to silage fields in spring and can be a good source of P and K. An application of 3,000 gal/ac of cattle slurry will supply sufficient P and K to grow a silage crop. Aim to spread slurry on dull damp days and on very low covers to avoid contamination of the silage crop. If fields need to be rolled, do it early to avoid damaging grass. For high-DMD silage, fields need to be grazed off and closed by early April for a May cut. Be careful with large application of K. Where over 70 units/ac is required, only 70 units/ac should be applied in spring with the remainder applied in autumn. Table 1 outlines the fertiliser requirements of silage crops at different P and K indices.

Reducing workload: With ground conditions improving, more stock should be moving outdoors this week. This will lighten the workload after the busy spring period.

On some farms which have late-calving cows in late April or May, it could be an option to let these cows out to eat off grass and kickstart grazing. Fertiliser should have been spread on grazing ground at this stage. While nights are very cold this week, the fertiliser will be available for uptake by grass once temperatures improve. While compound fertilisers are more expensive, you should still be aiming to spread compound products where P and K is low. Standard urea (unprotected) is fine to use at this time of year when temperatures are low and there is moisture in the environment.

Spreading slurry on grazing ground in dry cold weather is risky as slurry could dry on the grass and contaminate for grazing.

Breeding: This week’s Focus is on beef breeding and getting it right this spring. If using AI the active bull list is a good place to start to pick bulls. You need to match your cow type and look at some of the sub-indices to strengthen some of the weaknesses in your herd.