Over the coming weekend, many farms across the country will house cows and cattle for the winter.

The focus for grass is now firmly on 2022 and decisions made now will influence management next spring.

As the weather over the last week has been relatively good, there is a temptation to go back into the paddocks that were closed at the start of October.

Doing this will not only run down the average farm cover (AFC) but it will also reduce the level of grass that will grow over the winter.


This week, during our Irish Farmers Journal grassland management course meeting, participants have noticed a big reduction in growth rates on paddocks grazed since the beginning of November.

Reduced growth rates are largely due to colder weather and the fact that when grazed there is very little leaf present to take advantage of the shorter daylight hours.

Farms that reduce the AFC to 500kg DM/ha or below greatly reduce the farm's ability to grow grass over the winter.

Closing cover

With just over two weeks left in November there is a very short period for the AFC to recover in order to hit the farm's target closing cover on 1 December if the AFC has gone below target.

The target closing cover depends on the stocking rate on the farm:

  • SR 2.5 LU/ha target closing cover 600kg DM/ha.
  • SR 3 LU/ha target closing cover 650 – 700 kg DM/ha.
  • SR 3.5 LU/ha target closing cover 700 – 750 kg DM/ha.
  • A farm stocked at 3LU/ha has a target closing cover on 1 December of 700kg DM/ha. Growth rates for the rest of November will average around 10kg DM/day. This means with 17 days left in November the farm has the potential to add 170kg DM/ha to the AFC.

    If a farm stocked at 3LU/ha has an average farm cover below 530-550kg DM/ha today, grazing must stop and stock must be housed.

    Out of grass

    The term “out of grass” is often used at this time of the year as a reason for housing stock. This should not mean the farm is grazed bare but that the AFC is as low as you want it to go. Grazing must stop in order to have grass next spring.

    Grass in the springtime is far more valuable than at this time of the year.