There is approximately two to three weeks more grass supply available on farms this spring compared to the average spring. This provides a great opportunity for grassland farmers to take advantage of the good grass supply and grazing conditions. Good grass growth over the winter (6+ kg Dry Matter per hectare per day) combined with a mild February means that grass growth has started much earlier this year.
Data from Teagasc’s PastureBase Ireland indicates the mean Average Farm Cover (AFC) is 935 kg DM/ha across the country, with grass growth this week of 14kg DM/ha/day. This represents a 20% increase in Average Farm Cover (AFC) and a 60% increase in grass growth compared with 2018. The general picture of cow daily feed allowances is 9 -10kg grass, 4 kg concentrate and 1kg of silage. Many farms have been able to go a step further and utilise more grazed grass, and have cows on diets of grass and 2-3 kg concentrates.
Micheal O’Leary, PastureBase Ireland coordinator, remarked that; “It will be challenging to get 30% of the farm grazed by early March on some farms”. On farms where livestock were let out grazing early, that figure today is approximately 20-25%. The message to farmers is to move livestock to grass now and take advantage of the current good grazing conditions and grass supply.
Cows should be grazing day and night, grass silage needs to be removed from the diet early, and concentrate usage can be reduced in line with the quantity of grass in the diet. All farms should have a minimum of 23 units Nitrogen per acre already spread to maximise grass growth on farms.
The Teagasc grass growth model, developed by Elodie Ruelle at Teagasc Moorepark, predicts grass growth of approximately 25kg DM/ha for this week. Given that current demand for grass on farms is 17kg DM/ha, average farm cover is likely to rise again next week, when it should ideally be falling.
Try to have heavy covers grazed off in the next two weeks to avoid sward decay, which will delay regrowth’s if not grazed. It is important to utilise this grass early to ensure that excellent grass quality is available for the second and third grazing rotations.
The key messages for making the best use of grass currently are
- Try and achieve 30% grazed by March 1. Let out later calving dry cows or other stock and block graze to achieve the target area grazed
- Remove silage from the lactating cow diet immediately
- Ensure cows are receiving sufficient magnesium
- Acclimatise stock to grazing by grazing some lighter covers first
- Drystock can be allocated 36-48 hour breaks once they have acclimatised to grazing
- Use block grazing and do allocate livestock to graze regrowths