It’s amazing how quickly ground conditions can change at this time of year, both for the better and for the worse.

Ground conditions were superb over the weekend and earlier in the week, but have since turned to slobber on many farms, particularly in the south where the worst of the rain was.

Many areas got up to 30mm of rain in a few hours on Wednesday, with some areas getting snow. This has forced cows and cattle inside, which is the right place for them during really wet weather.

Managing to get them back out quickly will be the next challenge. On/off grazing is a saviour in this type of weather when ground conditions are really marginal. I know farmers that do this with beef cattle as well as cows. It involves letting stock out to grass for no more than three hours at a time and then bringing them back into the yard.

When they are in the yard they should not have access to too much silage. In other words they should have built up an appetite again before their next stint out to grass. In Teagasc research, it was found that cows eat 90% of their daily intake in two three hour grazing periods and poaching is minimised.

Where cows are going to be housed full time for a few days, feed the best quality silage available to them so that the drop in production will be minimised. Some farmers will feed extra meal when cows are indoors and that’s fine, but be careful about feeding too much meal which could cause stomach upsets.

Sward Watch

Very heavy rain over most of the country has forced cows and cattle indoors.

Ground conditions change quickly at this time of year so keep walking the farm and be on the look-out for a paddock suitable for grazing, once it’s not raining overhead.

It is too wet to consider spreading nitrogen or slurry on most farms.

Where no nitrogen has been spread to date, hold off until conditions for uptake improve. If on/off grazing, feeding some silage in the shed during the ‘off’ period will help to keep cows settled.

Gearoid Hinchion


Co. Cork

Things were going great up to Wednesday when it started bucketing rain. We were out by day almost every day of February and we were out by night over the weekend. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to get back out for a few hours and do some on/off grazing by Thursday morning.

It’s a bit of a challenge now because we have a huge amount of grass on the farm and have most of the lighter covers grazed. We’ve got over 40% of the farm grazed. Half the farm has got 23 units/acre of urea and about one quarter got 2,500 gallons/acre of slurry. The remainder is steep and awkward ground that we’re hoping to get to as soon as conditions allow.

Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 2.7

Growth Rate (kg/day) 10

Average Farm Cover (kg/ha) 1,273

Yield (l/cow/day) 24

Fat % 4.50%

Protein % 3.56%

Milk Solids (kg/cow) 1.99

Supplement Fed (kg/cow/day) 4

Barry Reilly



Co. Cavan

Things are going well here. Cows are out day and night on a full time basis and they even stayed out all day Wednesday.

We’ve got 38% of the farm grazed and are still going into lower covers of around 1,200kg/ha. Calving is slow though, with just over 50% calved and there’s no sign of a big burst coming any time soon, which is disappointing.

We have slurry out on 40% of the farm and 10% got 23 units/acre of urea. As soon as weather allows we’ll probably go with a full bag/acre of urea on the rest of the farm in the next week or so. Growth rates are still low enough but we have a good average farm cover.

Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 2.4

Growth Rate (kg/day) 6

Average Farm Cover (kg/ha) 920

Yield (l/cow/day) 23

Fat % 4.91

Protein % 3.73

Milk Solids (kg/cow) 2.05

Supplement Fed (kg/cow/day) 3

Charles Clarke


Co. Cavan

We’re not getting as much rain up here as they are further south. The cows were out for a few hours on Wednesday morning. They had been going out in the evenings for a few hours and I was bringing them in at night but they stayed out full time over the weekend.

I’ve got a lot of heavy covers here and it’ll be tricky enough to manage them when the weather is wet.

I’ve no nitrogen out yet but I have some slurry spread. Again the heavy covers are an issue and some of our ground is hilly and not really suited to a tanker and dribble bar. I’ll go with fertiliser as soon as conditions improve again.

Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 3.5

Growth Rate (kg/day) 8

Average Farm Cover (kg/ha) 1,100

Yield (l/cow/day) 23

Fat % 5%

Protein % 3.57%

Milk Solids (kg/cow) 2.03

Supplement Fed (kg/cow/day) 5