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Growth Watch: Mid-September grazing targets

As the middle of September approaches, a number of key grazing targets begin to come into effect at farm level. Séan Cummins, Teagasc GreenAcres Advisor, discusses mid-September grazing targets and gets updates from farmers Peter Byrne, Co. Kildare and Ciaran Bartley, Co. Limerick.

The Advice

To ensure that the grazing season can be extended, the peak supply of grass – in other words, the highest average farm cover – is required.

For farms stocked at 2.5LU/ha, this equates to an average farm cover of 1,000-1,100kg DM/ha by mid-September with pre-grazing covers of 2,000-2,200kg DM/ha.

Where farms are struggling to achieve this target, the introduction of concentrates to forward finishing stock or calves should be considered, while the drafting of animals for sale – particularly early-maturing heifers – maybe warranted.

In terms of the rotation length being implemented at farm level, this needs to extend as the middle of the month arrives, with a timeframe of 35 days required to ensure that adequate grass is present in the paddock for the final grazing prior to housing.

Another important date to remember is September 15, the period from which the closed period for spreading of chemical nitrogen and phosphorous fertiliser comes into effect nationally.

Peter Byrne, Castledermot, Co. Kildare

  • Growth: 57kg DM/ha
  • Demand: 43kg DM/ha/day
  • Average farm cover: 964kg DM/ha
  • Stocking rate: 3.05LU/ha

Despite a slight dip during the dry period in July, cattle have performed well over recent weeks. The recovery in growth we’ve seen over the past month has also allowed us to build covers for the autumn ahead, with the average farm cover standing at 964kg DM/ha.

The last round of nitrogen fertiliser was applied in mid-August and, although I’d like farm cover to be a little higher, I have options to extend the grazing season.

I’ve started to introduce concentrate feeding to a batch of autumn-born Holstein Friesian steers and hope to have these moved off farm in early December. I also drafted out the heaviest of the spring 2020 born Holstein Friesian steers and these will follow the same route.

The early-maturing heifers on the farm are progressing nicely and hopefully these will be moved off farm over the next three or four weeks.

Concentrate feeding has also been introduced to the spring calves. These animals are a slight bit behind target and the addition of hard feeding at a rate of 1kg/head/day should help them achieve their 0.7kg/head/day weight gain target up until November 1.

Ciaran Bartley, Boher, Co. Limerick

  • Growth: 54kg DM/ha/day
  • Demand: 29kg DM/ha/day
  • Average farm cover: 1,064kg DM/ha
  • Stocking rate: 2.33LU/ha

The farm here is in a strong position to extend grazing on account of the reasonable level of farm cover, which has been achieved through growth exceeding demand for the past four weeks.

A growth rate of 54kg DM/ha/day was recorded on the most recent walk and, with a demand of 29kg DM/ha/day, that’s leaving the farm here with an average farm cover of 1,064kg DM/ha.

Parts of the farm here are very heavy so I’ll be playing close attention to the weather and especially the rainfall over the coming days and weeks with the intention of making the most of grazed grass between now and housing.

The finishing steers are performing well and are currently being supplemented with 5kg/head of a high-maize ration at grass. The target for these animals is to produce a 300kg carcass by November 1. The calves are also continuing to be offered 1kg/head/day of a calf nut and this will remain until housing.

he 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.