Thinking of joining PastureBase Ireland in 2019?
By Sean Doorley,
Beef & Sheep Adviser, Longford Town.
“If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” A notable quote from Peter Drucker, a highly respected business consultant, author and educator. Think about it for a moment. Say if you set yourself a goal of losing some weight this year. Wouldn’t it be very difficult to manage your weight loss without stepping on the scales at some stage? Your performance needs to be measured to ensure you are on track to meet your target weight loss.
Measuring is very relevant in a lot of aspects in farming today and grass measuring is seen by many famers as essential in the management of that crop. A lot of farmers have become accustomed every year to carrying out a winter fodder budget. They calculate the quantity of feed available on the farm and count the stock to estimate feed demand. Combined with the numbers of expected days of winter ahead they are able to measure if there is a surplus or deficit of feed on the farm for the winter ahead. Farmers do find winter feed budgeting a worthwhile practice and it is that very exercise that has help farmers come through difficult winters in the past. So should the adaption of measuring growing grass in the field during the grazing season not also be considered a very worthwhile exercise too? This spring Ben & Conor Lynn, Tang, Ballymahon have made the decision to join PastureBase Ireland (PBI).
What is PastureBase Ireland?
PastureBase Ireland is an internet-based grassland management tool run by Teagasc. It offers farmers ‘grassland decision support’ and stores a vast quantity of grassland data from dairy, beef and sheep farmers in a central national database. PBI also operates on a Smartphone App which can work offline when out in the field. Farmers measure grass heights on a weekly basis over the growing season on designated paddocks. This data is entered onto the PBI system. Measuring is carried out by cutting and weighing grass, use of a plate meter, a Teagasc Grass Sward Stick or for the more experienced farmers estimate it by eye (eyeball it). The database stores all grassland measurements within a common structure. This will allow the quantification of grass growth and dry matter (DM) production (total and seasonal) across different enterprises, grassland management systems, regions, and soil types using a common measurement protocol and methodology. The background data such as paddock soil fertility, grass/clover cultivar, aspect, altitude, reseeding history, soil type, drainage characteristics and fertiliser applications are also recorded.
Adoption of PBI on farms this Spring
Ben & Conor Lynn are in Partnership since 2015. Conor is a Young trained Farmer and it was during the completion of his Certificate in Agriculture course in Gurteen Agriculture College that he became very interested in developing the grassland resources on the home farm. They are mixed beef and sheep farmers with an overall stocking rate of 1.8L.U./ha. They run an early lamb production system, have spring calving suckler cows and purchase store heifers, with all animals finished on the farm. They are part of the Longford Beef Discussion Group run by Teagasc Adviser Sean Doorley in Longford. They completed some development work on part of the farm over the last three years and put in place a number of new paddocks and new water troughs. The farm was soil sampled in 2016 for GLAS, a Nutrient management plan was drawn up and they have applied fertiliser as recommended including applying lime in 2018. The farm will be soil sampled again in 2019. Last autumn an 18 acre section of the farm was closed up in rotation and on the 2nd of February 2019 they were able to let weanlings out six weeks earlier than normal. Ben & Conor will start recording grass measurements on PBI this year on this part of their farm, choosing 7 paddocks where they will be grazing weanling heifers on a 21 day rotation during the main grazing season. Conor says ‘the main reason we joined PBI is we see grass measuring as the next step in the ladder to further exploit the grass resources on the farm and it will take the guesswork out of managing grass. We will hope to see the benefits such as identify paddocks with low annual tonnage of grass and hope to reseed them in the future.’ They are delighted to have made this first step and they plan to be measuring grass on the entire farm over the next few years.
Why Measure Grass?
The potential to achieve high levels of productivity from grazed grass gives Irish farmers a major competitive advantage over many of our European and global counterparts. PBI aims to help farmers ensure that they are exploiting the full potential of grazed grass on their farm, irrespective of production system or land type. While Irish farmers use some purchased feed, the majority of weight gain or milk is produced from forage, mainly grazed grass or conserved silage. Getting livestock out to grass early and ensuring an adequate supply of good-quality leafy grass is available throughout the grazing season is key to obtaining high levels of animal performance. PBI can help guide you to achieve these outcomes.
This article featured in the March/April 2019 edition of the Teagasc Todays Farm magazine. Teagasc provides a Local Advisory and Education service to farmers. They have offices based in Roscommon Town (Tel: 090 6626166), Castlerea (Tel: 094 9620160) and Longford Town (Tel: 043 3341021), You can find us on Facebook @Teagascroscommonlongford.