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John Dunne May/June Update 2024



  • Silage Plan for 2024 – aiming to cut May 20th
  • Getting grass covers back on track
  • Applying fertiliser to grassland areas
  • Ragworth in Rathfeston needs to be controlled


  • 70 cows and heifers are synchronised and AI used
  • Bulls are let on in May
  • Keeping a level or rising plain of nutrition to keep conception rates


Situated in the midlands, the majority of John’s farm would be described as a dry loam soil. Generally , cattle can be turned out in early February. Like most farms nationally, the record levels of rained have caused delays in the turnout of priority stock to grass , application of slurry and fertiliser to both silage and grazing ground. In addition, the sowing of the spring barley crop was  delayed to late April.

Fortunately, John had plenty of fodder on farm after making surpluses in 2023. However, reserves have become depleted and John needs to concentrate of making sufficient silage for next winter with a buffer of one month. However, John also wants to target making some high quality silage for the  priority groups of 200 weanlings and 200 stores next winter. Is this still possible given that closing of silage has been delayed by almost a month  this year ?

During a visit with John on April 16th the following was decided;

  • The silage ground at home in Tinncrannagh would get 60 units of Protected Urea + S. The ground is all index 4 for P & K. Spreading 60 units would mean that the crop could still be cut in the third week of May. John will then apply slurry plus another 60 units /acre for a second cut. Closing in May is a better option that delaying into June.
  • After walking the grassland area on the outfarm in Rathefeston , there are paddocks that are gone too heavy for grazing. John could remove the grass as bales silage immediately . However, he has decided to apply 2 bags of 18.6.12 /acre and he will cut the paddocks when making the first cut in May. Rathfeston is at index 1 and 2 for P and K. This will add to the tonnes of silage harvested and also bring the paddocks back into the rotation with quality after grass.

Photo April 16th, heavy covers will get 2 bags 18.6.12/acre and cut mid May

Photo April 16th, silage ground will get 60 units pro urea/acre

Ragworth Control

Ragwort (Senecio Jacobea) also known as ragweed, buachalán is poisonous in the green and preserved state and has been responsible for many animal fatalities. Ragwort is listed as one of many noxious weeds in the Noxious Weeds Act. It is also a biennial plant (lives for two years). Ragworts poisoning can also show symptoms such as tenesmus, hind limb weakness and severe animal pain according to the Department of Agriculture. John has  a section of land that he wants to spray for the weed. Treating ragworth needs some consideration with regards to timing of the application.

Normally animals don’t eat ragwort in pastures unless grazed grass availability is extremely restricted. An animal must consume up to 12 % of the animal’s body weight in the weed to cause severe problems. Ragwort becomes more palatable to animals when cut or sprayed, as this releases sugars in the plant. Most fatalities occur where there is a mixture of ragwort finely chopped in hay or silage where cattle are forced to eat this palatable ragwort.

Spray Control

At smaller infestation levels, pulling of ragwort can be a successful control option. For larger infestation numbers, sprays such as MCPA, 2, 4-D (D50) and Forefront provide good control but measures must be taken to avoid stock eating any dying or dead ragwort present.
The key points in chemical Ragwort control include:

  • The best time to spray ragwort is at the rosette stage, roughly around half the size of a rugby ball
    • The larger the ragwort the longer it takes for the carcase to rot down and not be cut in silage/grazed
    • Avoid spraying once the plant becomes stemmy
    • Ensure the plant is actively growing
    • Spray in the Spring (February to Mid-March) or late Autumn (September to Mid-November)
    • Ensure that the plant is fully decayed into the soil before grazing again (usually 5 to 6 weeks).
  • John has grazed the area bare and once the rosette’s show he will spray and keep the animals off the paddocks for 6 weeks.

 Photo; delays in sowing the barley group (16th April, 2024)


With AI used on over 70 cows and heifers on April 22nd , John wants to ensure that they are on good quality grass. Luckily, the weather has dried up and ground conditions have improved in the week post insemination. Cows are more settled . The CH bull has been let out with the cows while the AA has gone with the maiden heifers.

John is hoping for a 60 % conception rate with the synchronization programme and he will scan at the end of month. May is all about observing to ensure that the bull is working and for watching repeats . The bulls were given an  NCT in April . There were issues in the past with an infertile bull so observation is key during May and June.

Photo: cows are getting priority treatment post insemination.