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Growth Watch: Timely growth boost helps farms reach peak cover

Many farms in the Teagasc Green Acres Calf to Beef Programme have recorded strong growth rates over the past seven days. Séan Cummins, Teagasc GreenAcres Advisor, discusses farms reaching peak cover and gets updates from farmers Martin Connolly, Co. Roscommon and JP Hammersley, Co. Tipperary.

The Advice

Growth rates of 60-90kg DM/ha/day have moved many farmers into a strong position in terms of average farm cover, allowing them to extend the grazing season for lighter stock when the correct management practices are implemented.

At an average farm cover of 1,034kg DM/ha and an average pre-grazing yield of 2,001kg DM/ha/day, programme farmers are now in the full swing of autumn grassland management.

Although ground conditions are still excellent for the large part, rain last week did present challenges for farmers grazing heavier soils or those trying to protect reseeded ground.

With pre-grazing covers also now heavier, farmers are opting to use a strip wire or split paddock sizes further to reduce the residency time grazing any particular area and to help achieve the post-grazing target of 4cm.

Rotation length is also extending on farms, moving from 35 days in mid-September to 40 days at the start of the next month.

Despite the average farm cover being on target for the majority of the farms in the programme, one or two farms have fallen short. This occurred as lower than desired levels of growth at the start of September made it challenging to build cover.

In order to extend the grazing season and stretch out the rotation length, these farms are supplementing finishing stock at grass or are moving some of the more forward finishing stock indoors to ensure sufficient grass is present on farm for lighter animals.

Martin Connolly, Castleplunket, Co. Roscommon

  • Growth: 67kg DM/ha/day
  • Demand: 28kg DM/ha/day
  • Average farm cover: 1,142kg DM/ha
  • Stocking rate: 1.89LU/ha

Growth has been strong over the last week at 67kg DM/ha/day and ground conditions have also been excellent.

Our heaviest cover is 2,200kg DM/ha currently and with underfoot conditions remaining favourable, I am able to achieve relatively good graze outs.

With demand sitting at 28kg DM/ha/day, I’ll be in a strong position to extend the grazing season. As the year progresses, heavier stock will be moved indoors and this year’s calves will continue to graze while being supplemented with 1kg/head/day of meal.

Although a long way away, the plan is to graze the silage ground with these animals in the last rotation. Ground conditions can be challenging in the spring here and to ensure silage quality is maximised, I target all silage ground for a graze before closing up for the winter.

The last of the slurry was applied last week, before ground conditions become too challenging, to supply phosphorous and potassium to some of the fields that were taken out as surplus bales earlier.

JP Hammersley, Lattin, Co. Tipperary

  • Growth: 71kg DM/ha/day
  • Demand: 32kg DM/ha/day
  • Average farm cover: 1,057kg DM/ha
  • Stocking rate: 2.36LU/ha

Growth has been higher than expected over the past week at 71kg DM/ha/day and this is largely been driven by 18ac of reseeded ground. This growth rates puts the average farm cover here at 1,057kg DM/ha, which will allow calves to graze into early December if conditions are suitable.

The focus over the past two weeks has been to ensure that this is grazed to both promote tillering and to thicken the sward. Conditions did prove challenging towards the end of last week, but moving stock to fresh grass daily helped to reduce the risk of doing any damage.

In terms of meal supplementation, 40 of the most forward spring-2020 born Friesian steers are being supplemented with 4kg/head/day, while calves have been receiving 1kg/head/day of concentrate, which will continue up until housing.

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.