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Ken Gill May/June Update 2024

Stocking up on winter feed

Stocking up on winter feed

  • Fodder budget for 2024
  • First cut silage management
  • Other feed options
Managing red clover this summer

Managing red clover this summer

  • Red clover management
  • Red clover measure 2024
  • Watch video of Ken describing the management of it on his farm
Farm walk details

Farm walk details

  • Upcoming farm walk!
  • Friday 12th July 2024
  • All welcome to attend

Animal Nutrition

Ken is firmly focused on catching up on field work since the weather has improved. He has spring oats, a pea/wheat combination crop mix and grass seed to sow across 47 acres on the farm. However, he has been planning for next winter’s feed since early spring. The autumn-born calves grazed the silage fields in spring and these have been closed since early March. Some of the fields were spread with 2,500 gallons/acre of cattle slurry using a low-emission slurry spreading (LESS) umbilical system, as Ken wanted to avoid damaging the fields with a much heavier tanker. Other fields were too wet to spread slurry and grass covers are now too heavy, so they will receive 2,500 gallons of cattle slurry/acre after cutting.

Ken tries to avoid cutting fields more than once per year in his organic system to avoid removing excess nutrients; therefore, his fodder plan is as follows:
• cut 31 acres of designated first-cut silage in mid to late May;
• cut 25 acres of red clover silage (three cuts and mulched);
• take out heavy paddocks of grass where possible – Ken is using PastureBase Ireland (PBI) to make decisions on this;
• sow 30 acres of turnips, rape and kale for the store cattle; and,
• harvest 17 acres of the pea/wheat combination crop bales for feeding to cows after weaning.

Watch his video below as he discusses his feed plans;

He completed a fodder budget for the farm and will required the equivalent of 1110 bales of silage for next winter for 62 cows, 70 yearlings and 65 weanlings (figure 1 below). He has 80 bales of the pea/wheat bales left over from 2023 so these are also accounted for.

Fodder budget for 2024

Figure 1: Fodder budget for 2024

With the late spring and feed reserved depleted on a lot of farms around the country, some farmers have been considering whether to opt for a bulky first cut. Ken does not plan to do this, he still plans to make good quality silage and cut it before the end of May to achieve this. His autumn calving cows have a high energy demand over winter when they are rearing calves, and Ken also wants to have good quality silage to feed to them and to the store cattle. Research from Teagasc also shows that an earlier first cut on 25th May will result in higher quality silage and higher yielding second cut that if cutting was delayed until 12th June, with no added benefit in delaying further until 23rd June. With droughts affecting grass growth over the last few summers, Ken is also happy to have re-growth on these paddocks for grazing if necessary.

Silage quantity vs quality chart

Figure 2: Effect of silage cutting dates on total dry matter yield


As previously mentioned, Ken will be continuing to make red clover silage on his farm this year. As a crop it fits into his tillage rotation, which is typically: grassland > oats (two years) > red clover (three to four years) > oats (three years) > grassland.

The crop received 1500 gallons/acre of cattle slurry and is growing well. This year he will cut it in early to mid-May and harvest it as baled silage. Similar to the grass silage it will be wilted for 24 hours, but the cutting height of the mower will be slightly higher (just above a fistful of grass) to avoid cutting the growing point of the red clover.

The crop will receive another application of 1500 gallons of slurry/acre after the following cuts and will get a heavy coating of farmyard manure in the autumn. The fourth cut is then mulched to restore nutrients to the crop, which has an offtake of 12 units P and 100 units K for every 5t DM/ha removed.

Red clover/PRG crop growing on Ken's farm

Figure 3: Red clover/grass sward currently growing on Ken’s farm

The Red Clover Silage Measure is open until May 15th and is paying €300/ha to farmers who wish to establish red clover on their farms this year. Find out more at Red Clover Silage Measure (DAFM).

Hear more about how Ken manages red clover for silage in the video below;


Ken will be hosting a national farm walk on Friday 12th July where he will discuss the performance of his autumn calving, organic suckler herd.

Further details will be available nearer the time and all are welcome to attend.

Cattle on Ken's farm

Figure 4: Some of the 2023 autumn born weanlings that can be seen on the 12th July 2024