Grass growth rates took a dip this week after almost a month of very strong growth rates. May was a fantastic month for grass, with everything coming together at the right time.

OK there was a bit too much rain on some farms, but for the majority of farmers it was a perfect month for grass. The period after a growth spurt can often be a tricky time to manage grass.

The reduction in growth can catch some farmers out and as such, there are a lot of farmers now a bit tight for grass. The good news is that warmer and wetter weather is in the forecast, and this has influenced predicted growth rates.

If this weather comes, then I’d expect to see growth rates bounce back to meet demand on most farms.

Look at the difference between demand and growth to know what direction the farm is going in, and take action early. The target is to have a farm cover of around 160kg to 180kg available per cow, or to have 10 days of grass ahead of the herd.

On dairy farms that are tight for grass, a couple of kilos of meal and/or some high quality bales for a few days can rectify the problem fairly quickly.

Air temperatures have dropped and are running below the long term average, but there is less nitrogen applied on farms this year so that could be having an impact too.

If nitrogen is lacking then it makes far more financial sense to apply that to increase grass growth rather than to plug the hole in the wedge with either meal or silage. Work backwards to see how many units of nitrogen has been applied in the last month.

On farms with a high grass demand, there should be in the region of 24 units/ac spread over the month. Fields with good clover and farms with a lower stocking rate and demand for grass can get away with a lot less nitrogen.

Clover will be coming into its own from now on and should be capable of providing nearly all of the nitrogen required on lower stocked farms and the majority of the nitrogen on higher stocked farms.

There will also be more natural mineralisation of nitrogen happening in soils now too, so less chemical N will be required compared to the first half of the year.

Sward Watch

  • Grass growth rates have dropped a bit recently, as swards run out of steam after a four week burst of growth.
  • Keep average farm cover to between 160kg and 180kg per livestock unit.
  • If farms are tight on grass, they must reduce demand by either introducing more land or more feed, such as meal or silage.
  • Farmers

    Gerry McGuire – Horse and Jockey, Co Tipperary

    Growth has slowed back in the last week or so, but we’re managing fine so far. Cows are on a 17 day rotation and are being followed with 17 units of protected urea per acre.

    About 15% of the farm had clover sown last year, with these paddocks receiving chemical N in the first round only. We’re spreading watery slurry on these paddocks after cows and 0-7-30 is applied every second round.

    While it’s not growing as much as the ryegrass-only swards, there has been a great saving on fertiliser and we’re very happy with it. We sowed 2kg of white and 2kg of red clover as part of a reseed last month.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 3.9

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 81

    Average Farm Cover (kg/cow) 164

    Yield (l/cow) 26

    Fat % 4.4

    Protein% 3.68

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 2.16

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 2

    Jerome & Brian Desmond – Ovens, Co Cork

    Weather conditions in May have been excellent for breeding and silage harvesting, but as we’re on a dry farm here some rain would be welcome at this point to keep growth moving.

    Cows are currently grazing aftergrass at 1,500kg DM/ha from surplus paddocks that were baled three weeks ago. We’ve two paddocks to bale this week and after that we will be holding off on any silage making for a while.

    First cut silage was made last Friday and we’re hopeful that it’s high quality. Five acres of multispecies was sown four weeks ago and has come up nicely, so we’d be hopeful of grazing it in another four weeks.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 2.98

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 76

    Average Farm Cover (kg/cow) 213

    Yield (l/cow) 29.8

    Fat % 4.19

    Protein% 3.53

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 2.37

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 3

    Barry Reilly – Teagasc Ballyhaise, Co Cavan

    Growth has been slow in the past week, with demand and growth both at around the 60kg/ha mark. We expect growth to rise towards the weekend with the improved weather, as we have had sufficient rain here.

    The recent reseeds have greened up and some heat should drive these on in the next week.

    We’ve just passed three weeks of breeding, with 87% of cows submitted in the first 23 days. Beef AI will be used from now on, as we should have enough replacement heifers generated through using sexed semen.

    Repeat rates have been normal so far, with the good weather being ideal for breeding.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 3.3

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 62

    Average Farm Cover (kg/cow) 160

    Yield (l/cow) 24.5

    Fat % 4.44

    Protein% 3.55

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 2.01

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 1