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Maintaining grass and silage quality on Teagasc/Tirlán Future Farms

Maintaining grass and silage quality on Teagasc/Tirlán Future Farms

After a good recovery in grass growth last week, Co-Ordinator of the Teagasc/Tirlán Future Farm Programme, Sandra Hayes tells us how the monitor farmers are maintaining grass quality and are planning to balance silage quality and quantity.

A key aim on the programme farms, Sandra explained, is to maintain the pre-grazing yield at 1,350kg DM/ha as far as possible. To achieve this, many of the farms have marked out surplus, with the hope of baling in the next few days. To allow the gradual return of this ground to grazing in 2-2.5 weeks’ time, some farmers are staggering the cutting of surpluses.

Despite a poor spring, Sandra noted that silage crops have recovered well. Areas that were grazed in early spring now have pre-cutting yields of 5-6t DM/ha. However, as seed heads are starting to make an appearance, harvesting needs to be completed shortly to produce a high dry matter digestibility (DMD) silage.

Table 1: Summary of milk production and grass performance on Teagasc/Tirlán monitor farms (week of May 17)


Milk solids




Average Farm Cover

kg DM/ha

Pre-grazing yield


kg DM/ha/day


kg DM/ha/day

Donal Kavanagh 26.0 2.02 4 841 1,300 50 65
Tom Murphy 25.0 2.22 3 896 1,650 84 148
Francis Nolan 25.5 2.00 5        
Jack Kearney 27.0 2.10 3 675 1,400 56 72
John Ryan 26.8 2.08 3 661 1,500 74 81
Kevin Murphy 25.7 2.00 4 647 1,300 69 62
Mullen Farm (winter milk) 28.5 2.15 4 713 1,500 72 85
Shane Fitzgerald 28.0 2.05 2 753 1,600 76 79
Shay Ryan 25.0 2.03 2 706 1,700 85 93
Steven Fitzgerald 28.0 2.20 3 740 1,350 55 108
Tom Fennelly 24.4 1.96 2 557 1,400 64 84
Average 26.4 2.07 2 719 1,470 69 88

*Group are measuring once if not twice a week at this stage

Farm update

While completing a grass walk on Tom Murphy’s farm near Inistioge, Co. Kilkenny recently, Sandra and Tom took the opportunity to see how silage crops had performed.

The ground had been grazed once in early spring, while a small section was grazed twice due to poor growth rates in April. All of the ground had received 2,500 gallons/ac of slurry and 60 units/ac of protected urea + Sulphur. To assess the quantity of grass present on the silage swards, the cut and weigh method was used, showing pre-harvest yields of 5-6t DM/ha.

“We noticed some of the grasses had started to head out. We know the later you delay cutting, the lower the DMD drops. If cut nearer May 22, the DMD averages 76.6%, whereas it drops to 74.6% DMD if not harvested until May 29,” Sandra added.

On grazing management and on the back of a growth rate of >100kg DM/ha/day, Sandra and Tom also took the opportunity to look at the wedge, as pre-grazing was too high at over 1,640kg DM/ha.

“We took out surplus paddocks to drop the cover per cow to 165kg DM/ha. This increased the stocking rate to 5.4LU/ha, but this is only for a short period. We also did a predicted wedge for next week and we can see more surplus that can be taken out. This is an opportunity to correct the wedge, make surplus bales and get the pre-grazing yield closer to 1350kg DM/ha,” Sandra added.

More information on the Teagasc/Tirlán Future Farm Programme is available here.