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Growth Watch: Complete heavier machinery work while ground conditions allow


The advice from the GreenAcres Advisors, Seán Cummins and James Fitzgerald, this week is to complete heavier machinery work, like spreading lime, while ground conditions allow. They bring us the Green Acres Growth Watch from the farms of Jarlath Ruane, Co. Mayo and Aidan Maguire, Co. Meath

The Advice

This week should see the last of the second cut silage crops harvested on farm. Hitting the target cutting date on the first cut and taking up the second cut immediately should have left a growing period of 8 weeks for the second cut to return an ample yield. Nitrogen content of the grass at cutting will not be an issue for crops cut this week as the weather conditions are ideal for wilting the crop to achieve good preservation.

In calf to beef systems there is no room for anything other than top quality silage

Delaying the harvesting of second cuts may increase yield but will impact on silage quality. In calf to beef systems there is no room for anything other than top quality silage. Update your fodder budget once the second cut is taken and allow this to influence your decision making on fertiliser spreading and surplus bale harvesting for the rest of the year.

Now is an ideal time to focus on getting some of the heavier machinery work done on the land while ground conditions could not be better. Consult your latest soil samples and see if your silage ground needs lime. Aim to get this lime spread once the second cut is taken - before the aftergrass grows back.

The spreading of slurry by trailing shoe should be completed on ground that was baled for surpluses to replace the nutrients taken off. Having a cover of grass on the field to spread into using a trailing shoe will ensure the highest use of Nitrogen from your slurry.

The targets in grassland management are the same now as the previous 3 months:

  • Keep the pre grazing yield close to 1400kgDM/ha
  • Graze down to 4cm consistently
  • Keep the volume of grass available for grazing at 18-20 days ahead

During this spell of very hot weather we also need to be mindful of some other aspects.

  • Ensure that livestock always have access to water and shade
  • Delay fertiliser application and topping until rain returns

Farmer focus: Jarlath Ruane – Claremorris, Co. Mayo 

  • Average farm cover – 955 kgDM/ha
  • Growth – 54 kgDM/ha/day
  • Demand/ha – 48 kgDM/ha/day
  • Days ahead – 20
  • Stocking rate – 3.9LU/ha

 There is a healthy cover of grass across the farm given how dry conditions have got albeit with variation between different blocks.

One out-block with yearling bullocks on it is beginning to go into a green drought and will struggle to grow enough grass if rain does not arrive soon. Another block with dry ewes and calves is coping well with the dry conditions and will not run short on grass.

I don’t see any value in spreading fertiliser in these conditions, the next split of CAN+S and protected urea will go out when the rain comes.

The second cut silage was harvested last week and returned 7.5 bales/ac. While some bales may be fed out over the next week to preserve grass covers on an out block, I am expecting to harvest more surplus bales before the year is out.

Farmer focus: Aidan Maguire – Navan, Co. Meath

  • Average farm cover – 500 kgDM/ha
  • Growth – 47 kgDM/ha/day
  • Demand/ha – 39 kgDM/ha/day
  • Days ahead – 13
  • Stocking rate – 3.35 LU/ha

The dry conditions are beginning to take hold here again with the average farm cover slipping down to 500kg DM/ha from 570kg DM/ha the week previous. I am reintroducing baled silage to the yearling cattle from today onwards to stretch out the rotation and prevent the farm from completely running out of grass.

Cattle seem to be very content grazing to low covers in this weather, water and shelter are the main things they are looking for. I check the water troughs regularly to ensure that the cattle don’t run short of water and I graze a paddock with good shelter when at all possible.

The last fertiliser that was spread was 1 bag/ac of CAN+S, there will be no more fertiliser going out until the weather turns.

Over 90% of the silage needed has been harvested to date. Some bales will be fed before this dry spell is out but the red clover reseed which will be for harvesting next month should replenish the silage reserves with interest.

The Teagasc GreenAcres Programme Advisors have regular contributions here on Teagasc Daily. You might also like to keep up to date by signing up to their e-newsletter. Find out more about the Teagasc GreenAcres Calf to Beef Programme here