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Walk your Farm – It will make decision making easier!

Walk your Farm – It will make decision making easier!

Aidan Murray, Teagasc Beef Specialist advises that it is time to get out and walk the farm. This will allow ground conditions and grass cover to be assessed with regard to turning out stock. He has advice for low, medium and high grass covers. Remember grass is still our cheapest feed

With the drier conditions and the lengthening days there is a glimmer of Spring starting to peak through. In the year that is in it attention has turned to getting slurry out, stock out and fertiliser into yards. The fertiliser prices are quite shocking but we are going to have to work with it and make every unit spread count.

So the starting point is to get out and walk your fields. With such a mild winter grass has grown and fields that were closed in early October now have very good covers of grass. On the flip side fields that were grazed up to late November/December are still quite bare so how they need to be treated will differ in terms of slurry and/or fertiliser applications.

Walking your farm will potentially do several things; It will allow you to assess ground conditions to determine whether you can travel on ground or even consider letting out stock. It will also allow you to split your farm into High (10cm+), Medium (7-9cm) or Low (4-6cm) covers. This will allow you to decide where is best to go with slurry, fertilise or graze.

Low Covers (4-6cm)

  • Typically Grazed into Late Nov or wetter ground
  • Grass cover too low for chemical fertiliser application
  • Ideally suited to apply  1500-2000 gals/ac when ground conditions allow
  • Aim for paddocks that are low in P & K.
  • This can be followed by 18-20 unit N when soil temperatures get above 6o C

Medium Covers (7-9cm)

  • Typically closed from late Oct/early Nov
  • Green to the base
  • If LESS  slurry equipment is available consider applying 1500gal/ac of watery slurry
  • Ideally once ground conditions are satisfactory & soil temp reaches 6oC apply 20 – 25units N/ac. If soil index is low P&K should also be applied.
  • Sufficient leaf cover to minimise fertiliser loss
  • Drier paddocks may be used to graze stock for initial turnout


High Covers (10cm+)

  • Closed since early/mid October
  • May be starting to turn colour (yellow) at the base
  • Needs to be grazed off when conditions allow
  • Choose lighter stock to graze to minimise poaching risk
  • Once grazed 1500-2000gal slurry can be applied
  • If this happens to be Silage ground that won’t be grazed before closing apply chemical fertiliser in mid March  & target mid May harvest date. This will give you good quality allow for an early 2nd cut and earlier after grass.

Breaking the farm into three categories will help make decisions easier and more targeted.

  • It is very easy lose sight of the fact that grass is still our cheapest feed despite high fertiliser prices. To grow it soil pH (6.3-6.5) needs to be right to optimise N,P &K. So utilisating lime may be one of the cheapest inputs we can invest in.
  • On drystock farms the biggest offtake of P & K will be from the silage ground so slurry should ideally be recycled on this area and spring application is optimum. By all means use excess slurry on grazing areas with low P & K.
  • The aim has to be that we conserve as much silage as we will need for next winter. Skimping on fertiliser for silage will be false economy if you end up having to buy it next winter.

The Teagasc Beef Specialists issue an article on a topic of interest to Suckler and Beef farmers every Wednesday here on Teagasc Daily.  Find more on Teagasc Beef here  Teagasc provides a Local Advisory and Education service to farmers. Find your local Teagasc office here