The weather decided to break when the Irish Farmers Journal decided to bring back the Grass+ page.

Despite heavy rain in most parts over the last week, most farms are in a good place as a result of the exceptionally mild and dry winter.

Grass growth rates over the winter averaged 5kg per day which is a very high average and usually confined to just those in mild, coastal areas.

As a result, the average amount of grass on farms is higher than normal at 895kg DM/ha.

This means that on a typical 40ha farm there’s almost 36t of feed waiting to be grazed.

If this is managed correctly, it will all be grazed and reappear by the end of March – that’s the great thing about early grazing.

Of course, being able to graze this grass is dependent on the weather – something we can’t influence.

In reality, the best we can do is make the best decisions for the farm on a day by day basis.

There are tips and tricks to help improve utilisation. The first and most important of these is to make sure cows and cattle have an appetite when they go to grass.

If their bellies are full of silage all they will be interested in is walking around doing damage as opposed to keeping their heads down and grazing.

Either hold them in a yard for a few hours before turnout or push away silage a few hours before turnout to build up an appetite.

Early spring grazing will save silage therefore lowering costs for 2022.


  • Make sure cows and cattle have an appetite before going out for grass. Silage is the enemy of good grazing in spring.
  • Allocate grass in 12- to 24-hour breaks depending on ground conditions. Always back fence to prevent animals walking over grazed sections.
  • Use on-off grazing where necessary. This means grazing for three hours at a time and then back in the shed with limited access to other feeds.
  • Use multiple access points to minimise damage at gaps and use spur roads to get to the back of paddocks.
  • Be mentally prepared for some damage – it’s inevitable!
  • Beef farms

    Joe Deane – Carrigaline, Co Cork

    Stocking rate (cows/ha): 3.2

    Growth rate (kg/day): 6

    Average farm cover (kg/ha): 1,150

    Yield (l/cow/day): -

    Fat %: -

    Protein %: -

    Milk solids (kg/cow): -

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day): 3kg

    We’ve had very little rain down here compared to other places, with just one wet night in the last week or so. We’ve 25% of the herd now calved, the due date was last Sunday so we’re doing OK. About 30% of the milking platform has got 2,500 gallons of slurry per acre with dribble bar and another 30% has got 20kg N/ha, which is 16 units/acre of urea.

    The rest have covers of 1,500kg and above so I’m going to give these slurry or fertiliser after grazing, depending on ground conditions. I’ve less than 10% grazed so far and have a few of the dry cows out to graze some wetter paddocks while conditions are good.

    Ronan Joyce – Castlebar, Co Mayo

    Stocking rate (cows/ha): 2.6

    Growth rate (kg/day): 4

    Average farm cover (kg/ha): 931

    Yield (l/cow/day): -

    Fat %: -

    Protein %: -

    Milk solids (kg/cow): -

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day): 3kg

    I decided I wouldn’t spread chemical nitrogen until grass was growing 15kg/day. We did get slurry out on one-third of the farm about two weeks ago and when that’s growing 15kg/ha then I’ll go with 20 units/acre of urea on the rest of the farm. The slurry was spread at 2,000 gallons/acre with a trailing shoe. The plan is to spread 20 more units/acre in March and the same in April.

    January was a cracking month but it’s a different story now. I’ve 15 cows calved and we’re not due until the weekend.

    I’ve been out grazing the last few days but won’t be grazing properly until next week.

    Brendan Horan – Teagasc Curtins Farm, Co Cork

    Stocking rate (cows/ha): 2.7

    Growth rate (kg/day): 5

    Average farm cover (kg/ha): 1,018

    Yield (l/cow/day): -

    Fat %: -

    Protein %: -

    Milk solids (kg/cow): -

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day): 3kg

    It’s been a great start to the season, with calving progressing well and grazing conditions as good as can be hoped for at this time of year. We’ve probably got a bit less rain than other parts in the last week.

    Clover contents are very good for the time of year which is a reflection of the mild winter and good overwinter growth.

    This year’s study is a repeat of last year whereby we have three treatments – standard ryegrass, ryegrass plus clover and multispecies. Both the clover and multispecies swards will get 125kg N/ha while the standard ryegrass sward will get 250kg N/ha.

    Beef farms

    Shaun Diver – Tullamore Farm, Co Offaly

    System: Suckler to beef

    Soil type: Variable

    Farm cover (kg DM/ha): 653

    Growth (kg DM/ha/day): 7

    Demand (kg DM/ha/day): 2

    Growth over winter has been decent and the place is very green. On Monday we spread slurry on 25 acres of grazing ground at a rate of 2,500gls/acre.

    I’m not in any rush out with nitrogen just yet. I will wait another week or 10 days and assess the situation then.

    We have 14 cows and three heifers calved to date and all is going well so far.

    I am hopeful I will have some first-cut silage left in the yard this spring as well as 80 bales of silage so I should be able to reduce silage ground slightly which will help lower the grazing ground stocking rate.

    Seventy seven ewe lambs remain at grass and have started to get meal in the run up to lambing.

    Niall O’Meara – Killimor, Co Galway

    System: Suckler to weanling

    Soil type: Heavy

    Farm cover (kg DM/ha): 975

    Growth (kg DM/ha/day): 7

    Demand (kg DM/ha/day): 6

    I have 30% of the farm grazed this spring. The autumn calves have free access to grass and can come back in to the shed to the cows as they please.

    What really boosted the amount of ground grazed was getting the in-calf heifers and first-calved cows out by day for 12 days in late January and early February.

    Conditions have changed since last weekend and so they are back in again. Had I not got them out for that period I would nearly have too much grass on farm at the moment.

    I have no slurry or fertiliser out as of yet. Depending on conditions I will start spreading slurry in the next 10 days.

    Declan Marren – THRIVE demonstration farm, Cashel, Co Tipperary

    System: Dairy calf to beef

    Soil type: Mostly dry

    Farm cover (kg DM/ha): 826

    Growth (kg DM/ha/day): 5

    Demand (kg DM/ha/day): -

    Yearling cattle are currently 344kg and 321kg for bullocks and heifers respectively.

    The plan is to get the lightest batch of heifers out to grass in the coming weeks if conditions remain favourable.

    Some of the first paddocks closed in early October have grass covers of over 1,200kg DM/ha at this stage.

    Slurry was spread on 30 acres of silage ground in late-January with a trailing shoe at a rate of 2500gls/acre. This ground was some of the last grazed in November and early December so grass covers are low.

    There will be a big carryover of silage this spring and so one cut of silage plus surplus paddocks should secure enough fodder for next winter.