Most farmers have been surprised at the turn around in fortunes in terms of grass growth. The rebound has been faster and higher than expected.

This is all good news as many farmers are removing silage from the diet and/or reducing meal feeding rates.

Most farms are still behind target in terms of average farm cover, but growth rates are higher than normal so covers are building.

We would normally expect grass growth rates to be in the region of 40kg per day towards the end of September, but some farms are growing in excess of 60kg per day today and this is making all the difference.

Heavy rain is forecast for today (Thursday) but conditions are set to improve then again for the weekend and beyond. Pre-grazing yields are lower than normal on most farms and this is helping with getting a good clean out.

Where silage is still being fed and where pre-grazing yield is getting high, achieving a good clean out will be more challenging.

If cows could go to grass with an appetite it should help, but correct allocation is also important. Rotation length should be at 35 to 40 days now.

Even though ground conditions are universally good, moving to a 12 hour break will help with grass utilisation when covers get high and will also help with cow flow.

To work out how many breaks there are in a field, multiply the grass allocation per cow by the number of cows to get daily demand.

Then divide this into the total amount of grass available in the field – so the cover per hectare multiplied by the hectares. This will tell you how many days the herd will get in the field.

The closed period for spreading slurry this year is 6 October, so farmers should be making sure tanks are empty and spreading the remaining slurry as soon as possible to get a good response.

Many used to spread the last of the slurry on fields closed up for the autumn, but time will be against them this year.

Low emission slurry spreading equipment is a game changer because it means slurry can be spread on fields with a high enough cover of up to 1,000kg/ha without overly soiling the grass.

Sward Watch

  • Average grass growth rates are 52kg per day, but many farms that were affected by the dry conditions are growing in excess of 60kg to 70kg per day now.
  • Despite heavy rain forecast for Thursday, ground conditions and the weather forecast are good.
  • Many farmers are finishing up feeding silage and are going on a grass plus meal diet.
  • Farmers

    Niall Moloney – Crecora, Co Limerick

    There is more grass around than I thought there was after measuring, but we are still well behind target for this stage of the year.

    We had demand dropped down to 20kg last week by zero grazing in red clover, but we will now have to switch to red clover silage bales to supplement cows.

    About 5kg of silage and 8kg of grass will be in the diet for the coming week.

    We were lucky that milk prices allowed us to feed cows concentrates during the summer months when growth dropped off.

    Cows scanned well, with 8.5% empty after 13 weeks of breeding, with all the heifers correct for breeding scanning in calf.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 3.34

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 64

    Average Farm Cover (kg/ha) 798

    Yield (l/cow) 21.5

    Fat % 4.09

    Protein% 3.78

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 1.71

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 5

    Shane Crean – Ballynamona, Co Cork

    Growth has only really rebounded in the past week or 10 days, with grass very slow to push on after the rain came.

    After walking the farm this week, heavy covers have nearly doubled. We’re still going in with 5kg of silage, but this will be stopped when we finish a pit from last year towards the weekend.

    We’ve one reseeded paddock coming in to the rotation again soon, which was sown on 15 August, with 2kg of Tasman clover going in alongside the perennials.

    The rotation length has been pushed out to 38 days, with the hope being to keep grass in the diet up until 20 November.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 3.34

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 67

    Average Farm Cover (kg/ha) 904

    Yield (l/cow) 17

    Fat % 5.36

    Protein% 4.11

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 1.65

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 3.5

    Eoin McGrath – Teagsc Curtins, Co Cork

    Growth has increased in the past week to 41 kg DM/ha/day. Cows are heading in to paddocks at 1,250kg DM/ha.

    We will continue feeding 5kg of silage until early next week and cows will remain on 6kg of concentrates/head/day in order to build the farm cover further.

    Regrowth and pasture quality have improved a considerable amount in the past week so clean-outs are good. We blanket spread 27kg N/ha (protected urea) to all the grass/clover paddocks last week.

    In total, the grass/clover paddocks have received 125kg chemical N/ha this year. The whole grazing platform received half a bag of MOP last week.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 2.89

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 41

    Average Farm Cover (kg/ha) 776

    Yield (l/cow) 17.8

    Fat % 5.62

    Protein% 4.03

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 1.77

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 3.5