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Keeping grass in the cow's diet with on-off grazing

Keeping grass in the cow's diet with on-off grazing

The last two weeks have been tricky when it came to grazing, Sandra Hayes, Co-ordinator of the Teagasc/Tírlán Future Farm Programme, explained in a recent update.

What has worked well for the monitor farmers is on-off grazing. Once cows have been milked, they have no access to silage and are held in the yard/shed if possible before being let out to graze. Good access to paddocks when weather is wet and windy is vital and cows having multiple access points can reduce poaching.

I was on farm with John Ryan, Gortnahoe, Co. Tipperary, last Thursday and I could see how on-off grazing was working. John allocated enough grass for the 2-3 hour period and then cows came back into the cubicle shed. Cows had access to silage in the shed and he is feeding 5kg of meal in the parlour. It is an awkward time but with a little bit of work in allocating grass it does work. Another device that is useful for on-off grazing is a back latch or one that you can open gaps with your mobile phone. As they say every little helps.

Table 1: Teagasc/Tírlán Future Farm update 24th March 2023


Average Farm Cover

(Kg DM/ha)

Growth rate

(kg DM/ha/day)

Calved (%)Grazed (%)Meal (kg)
Donal Kavanagh (winter milk) 864 32 85 60 5
Francis Nolan 827 16 92 55 5
Jack Kearney 739 17 93 72 5
John Ryan 830 35 93 65 5
Kevin Murphy     94 90 6
Mullen Farm (winter milk) 809 24 75 85 5
Shane Fitzgerald 1,049 21 81 61 5
Shay Ryan 942 35 85 65 4
Steven Fitzgerald 830 22 96 82 4
Tom Fennelly 690 30 93 72 5
Average 842 26 89 71 4.9

Clover walk

Tom and David Fennelly, Portarlington, Co. Laois, will host one of the Clover Farm Walks on April 6th at 11am. All are very welcome to attend. We will be covering clover establishment and management, fertiliser strategies to maintain clover and pasture production and a focus on how this works in improving water quality. For more information on the Teagasc/Tírlán Future Farm Programme, click here.

Also read: Let’s Talk Dairy – nutrition of the spring-calving cow ahead of breeding