Our Organisation Search
Quick Links
Toggle: Topics

Green Acres Calf to Beef - GrowthWatch

James Fitzgerald and Seán Cummins, Programme Advisors to the Green Acres farms offer some timely advice on grassland management and share the current Autumn grassland management plans of two of the programmes farmers; Aidan Maguire and Richard Long

The Advice

Midpoint in October is a significant date in terms of managing this autumns grass and setting up our farm well, for grazing as early as we can next spring. In a normal autumn closing plan the last grazing round begins at the start of October and our first goal is to have 60% of the farm grazed tightly and closed by the end of October. At the midpoint of the month we should have 30% of the farm grazed off and closed if we are on target to meet the 60% closed target. Assessing what is happening in grassland management, relative to the targets you set for it now, and taking corrective action if necessary, is one of the last major grassland management decisions you will make for the year. It is also one of the most important. The following are some ideas as to how you can get your farm back on track, to have 60% grazed at the end of the month if you are currently ahead of or behind your 30% target.

Ahead of target (>30% grazed)

In this scenario the aim is to slow down the rate at which your cattle are grazing off ground and stretch the remaining grass out to last up until mid-November. Options which might be available to you include:

  • Housing of a proportion of your stock to reduce grass demand. The most likely stock to be housed in a calf to beef system are cattle which are due to be finished during the winter or light/young calves that will struggle to achieve weight gain targets outside from now on.
  • Graze the heaviest covers available if you have not been doing so up to now.
  • Introduce meal or increase meal rate to stock to reduce their grass demand.

Behind target (<30% grazed)

If less than 30% is grazed so far, ground needs to be grazed off and closed at a faster rate than so far this month to meet the 60% target. Options to help achieve this include:

  • Grazing lighter covers to graze off a bigger area more quickly
  • Adding in extra stock to the grazing area to speed up grass consumption
  • Turning out previously housed stock to assist in grazing off farm (most commonly suckler cows post weaning or recently purchased stock)

Recalculate the area of ground you need to graze off per day to reach the 60% target on the 31st October and ensure that this area is grazed each day from now until the end of the month. Remember the main reasons for managing grass in this way is to set your farm up well for grazing next spring, which is what really matters

Farmer Focus: Aidan Maguire – Navan, Co. Meath

  • Average farm cover – 873 kgDM/ha (14/10/2020)
  • Growth – 41 kgDM/ha/day
  • Demand/ha – 29 kgDM/ha/day
  • Stocking rate – 2.12 LU/ha

I began closing the farm on the 29th September and want this rotation to last 45 days, housing on the 14th Nov. the farm is split up into 45 paddocks so put simply I need to close a paddock every day to stay on track for housing on the 14th Nov. I will however tweak this slightly as grazing a paddock per day would result in almost 75% of the farm closed by the start of November, which is a bit much. I will graze through the heavier swards of grass now during this month to slow down the area that is closed to 60% by the month end. I will then hopefully have lighter covers on the remaining 40% of the farm which can be grazed off quickly with less stock when some of the heavier animals are housed.

Last year all cattle were housed on the 17th November and I had some cattle out by day again by the 24th January. Getting the grassland management right at the shoulders of the year and shortening the winter is a huge help in reducing costs and getting weight on cattle.

Farmer Focus: Richard Long– Ballymacarbry, Co. Waterford

  • Average Farm cover: 550kg DM/ha (14/10/2020)
  • Growth: 31kg DM/ha 
  • Demand: 21kg DM/ha
  • Stocking rate: 1.03 LU/ha

60% of the heavy animals on farm have been housed at this stage and are on a finishing diet of 5kg/head/day of concentrate and grass silage. I plan on drafting the early-maturing heifers over the next couple of weeks, with a target of producing a 245-250kg carcass at slaughter. Their steer counterparts have also been housed, with an aim of getting these moved off farm in early December at a 295-300kg carcass.

All of this year’s calves, along with the 2018-born continental x dairy animals, are still at grass. By housing the early-maturing forward animals earlier, it has allow me to extend the grazing season for as long as possible for these animals. The earlier housing of the Angus and Hereford animals has also allowed us to graze the heavier stock in smaller groups, which has helped to both balance grass supplies and ground conditions; the latter has started to become tricky over the past 14 days.

In terms of the autumn rotation planner, 19.95ha of ground has been grazed and closed for next spring in line with the autumn rotation planner. The last of the slurry was also spread on Monday 12th of October and this was applied to paddocks that have been grazed bare and are low in P and K indexes.

The table below shows the grassland management statistics from Pasturebase for all of the Green Acres farms

To find out more about the Green Acres Calf to Beef Programme click here https://www.teagasc.ie/animals/beef/demonstration-farms/green-acres-calf-to-beef/