Growth rates this week averaged 23kg DM/day. Ground conditions across the country are variable and by this weekend the majority of cows and cattle will be housed full-time. Extra days at grass this autumn have been a huge bonus to all farmers but especially those on heavy soils.
Given the higher than normal growth rates and the good grazing conditions this autumn, there is a temptation to start grazing paddocks that were closed in early October again. By doing this you risk dropping the average farm cover too low and grass growth over the winter will suffer as a consequence.
The target closing cover differs from farm to farm depending on stocking rate and demand in the spring.
By knowing your target closing cover on 1 December you can decide if you can afford to graze a paddock that has been closed.
Growth rates for the rest of November should average 10kg DM/day which means there is potential to add 170kg DM/ha to your average farm cover after this Saturday 13 November.
Farms that have an average farm cover below 500kg DM/ha should be finished grazing for the year. Reducing the farm cover below 500kg DM/ha will slow growth rates significantly. The focus now should be on setting the farm up for next spring and maximising grass growth in 2022.
Milk yield and protein percentage can often drop when cows are housed fully. Keeping grass in the diet by grazing during the day can counteract that. The only issue with this is that achieving target graze-outs is difficult when cows are on silage.
The best option might be grazing what is left while the weather is good and house fully when you have hit your target cover. The priority is to minimise damage at this time of the year.
Remember grass next spring is far more valuable than achieving an extra couple of days at grass this autumn.
Gareth Shortt – Omagh, Co Tyrone
The cows are still out by day but by the weekend they will be housed full time. Each morning they are left out to grass at 10am. They cannot access silage from 5:30am and this ensures they have a good appetite when they go out to grass. Graze outs have been good this autumn. 30 weanling heifers and the in calf heifers are in. There is another 50 weanling heifers still grazing the out farm. We will milk record next week and start to dry off cows after that. We do selective dry cow here so anything with an SCC below 200,000 at all milk recordings this year will only get a sealer and anything above 200,000 or that had a clinical case of mastitis will get an antibiotic tube.
Caroline O’Sullivan – Teagasc Curtins
On the grass only sward growth this week was 19kg DM/ha. Cows are in by night and getting 12 hour grass allocations by day. Over the next week all the groups will be housed full time. Pre grazing covers at the minute are ranging between 1,500-1,800kg DM/ha. Ground conditions are ideal and there is no damage being done. There is 95% of the farm grazed to date and we are watching the AFC very closely. We will not allow the AFC to go below 650kg DM/ha. We target an AFC of 750-800kg DM/ha on 1 December. Empty cows were sold two weeks ago and there has been a small hand full of low yielding early calving cows dried off. Everything will be dry by 16 December.
Jamie Kealy – Tullow, Co Carlow
On Monday cows were housed full time. We close with a high AFC as we have a very high demand in the spring. Our six week calving rate in 2022 will be very close to 100%. The farm is very dry which means we can get out day and night from the start of February. The target opening farm cover is 1,200kg DM/ha. All the first calvers were dried off over the last couple of weeks and everything will be dry by 1 December. We use selective dry cow therapy on the farm. Only cows that had a clinical case of mastitis or cows with a SCC above 100 in any of the 6 milk recordings will get an antibiotic tube. All other cows will get sealer only.
Dwayne Stanley – Thurles, Co Tipperary
At this stage there are only 35 of the spring-born weanlings grazing the silage ground and they will probably be housed this weekend. Earlier this week, we housed the dairy-beef calves. I am happy with how they have performed this year at grass. I kept them moving on to fresh grass every few days and for most of the season they received no meal. Once they are in and settled I will weigh them which will give us an accurate assessment of performance. There are 53 cows to calve in spring and I am starting the second round of AI for the autumn herd of 45 cows and 29 heifers. Breeding started on 15 October and bulling activity has been very good with just four cows and six heifers yet to be bred.
Ger McSweeney – Millstreet, Co Cork
I have the main grazing block closed over two weeks at this stage. There is a batch of in-calf heifers still grazing some of the silage ground. Clean-outs have been excellent which will be a great help when trying to get slurry out in spring. Depending on the rainfall over the next few days, I would imagine all stock will be housed by the weekend.
All bar one of the finishing heifers are slaughtered at this stage. It is the first year I won’t be finishing heifers out of the shed in spring. This is a change I have been working towards as I feel it best suits this farm. Keeping a close eye on performance at grass this season and growing the heifers on a bit more in the first winter has allowed this to happen.
Brian Geraghty – Dysart, Co Roscommon
About half the weanlings are still at grass with the other half housed in two batches over the last fortnight. There are one or two heavy covers of grass left which they are working through. Once they are grazed out, all cattle will be housed.
I drafted the last of the Angus heifers for slaughter two weeks ago so there are no cattle to be housed for finishing. I have silage left over from last year so I am feeding that first which will see me into mid-December all going well.
Grass is still growing, you can see it in the regrowth of recently grazed paddocks. We had frost on a couple of mornings last week but it is mild again this week. Overall 2021 has been a decent year at grass, despite a slow start in spring.