If in any doubt as to whether a paddock is too strong to graze, it should be taken out for silage. Grass growth rates are exceptionally strong at present – as strong as we have seen in the last number of years.

This is a massive blessing for all farmers as it means more pasture will be diverted to silage and the potential for a fodder deficit next winter is declining, but by no means gone. There is still a lot of the year to go yet.

For now, the focus must remain on providing as much high quality grass to cows and cattle as possible, on maximising growth when conditions are good and on making as much silage as possible.

With such high grass growth rates the response to nitrogen will also be high, certainly the highest in the year. Some farmers will say that grass is growing well, so why should they spread nitrogen?

There is merit to this, particularly at low stocking rates, but where stocking rates are higher and more winter feed needs to be made, now may be the best time to spread nitrogen. The typical response now will be 40kg of grass growth for every 1kg of nitrogen applied.

So CAN costing €3.30/kg N will deliver grass costing 8c/kg DM compared to meal at 40c/kg DM and silage at 25c/kg DM.

Torrential thunderstorms were widespread on Tuesday evening and while good for growth it’s not ideal for grazing, particularly on heavy land. If weather is unsettled, the best policy is to put cows and cattle on 12 to 24 hours so as to limit any damage and reduce the amount of grass being walked into the ground.

In general, ground conditions are reasonably good. The biggest problem at the moment is to maintain an appropriate pre-grazing yield.

Some farms are like jungles in terms of the amount of grass available and the only solution is to cut your way out of it with the mower and convert that extra grass to silage. The weather forecast isn’t too bad for the weekend and beyond, so some silage may be cut then.

Sward Watch

  • Average growth is 75kg/ha/day, the third week of very high growth.
  • Maintain pre-grazing yields at around 1,400kg/ha and skip paddocks that are gone too strong.
  • Higher stocked farms should continue to apply N at a rate of 17-18 units/ac after each grazing with high clover paddocks getting between zero and half-rate nitrogen.
  • Some farmers have started to top paddocks after grazing. Ideally, poorly grazed paddocks would be closed for silage to avoid wasting grass.
  • Jack Kearney – Rathcormac, Co Cork

    Growth has been great, with the real challenge being controlling covers in front of cows. I am walking the farm regularly and knocking out paddocks as needed.

    We took out a field for reseeding which is greening up well. First cut silage was completed last week and I’m happy with the quality and quantity in the clamp. Delaying cutting for another week would have bulked it further, but at the cost of DMD.

    Second cut ground will receive between 60 and 70 units of N through slurry and chemical fertiliser, with 2,500 gallons/ac being spread with LESS. Cows are being followed with around 15 units of N for an 18-19 day round, or about 0.8 units N per day.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 4

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 94

    Average Farm Cover (kg/cow) 154

    Yield (l/cow) 27.5

    Fat % 4.14

    Protein% 3.57

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 2.18

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 2

    Shane Hegarty – Craanlusky, Co Carlow

    We’ve taken out 25 acres of the milking platform in surplus bales to help control pre grazing covers. Cows are being followed with 16 units N of protected urea where paddocks have no clover. Anything with clover is receiving 7-10 units of N, working off a 20 day round. We reseeded 8.6ac with Aston Energy which is now up. About 14ac have been stitched with clover, half of it two weeks ago and the other half on Monday before any rain at a rate of 2kg/ac. The next break we get in weather we will be mowing first cut. It was all grazed earlier on and closed by 10 April, receiving 2,500 gallons of slurry spread with a trailing shoe, along with 70 units of chemical N.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 4.1

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 88

    Average Farm Cover (kg/cow) 147

    Yield (l/cow) 26

    Fat % 4.24

    Protein% 3.7

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 2.13

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 2.5

    Barry Reilly – Ballyhaise College, Co Cavan

    Despite taking out paddocks over the past few weeks we still have a lot of grass ahead of cows at the minute. We are mowing out surplus paddocks all the time, with another paddock skipped this week.

    Growth conditions have been ideal for our reseeds as well, which are up nicely the past few days.The plan is to spray off more paddocks this week now that these will be coming back in the rotation shortly.

    Breeding started last week and is progressing well. We had a 37% submission rate in the first seven days, with cows showing strong heats in the favourable weather conditions. We are using a mixture of sexed, conventional and beef semen on cows.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 3.2

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 90

    Average Farm Cover (kg/cow) 160

    Yield (l/cow) 26

    Fat % 4.45

    Protein% 3.59

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 2.15

    Supplement fed (kg/cow/day) 1