Our Organisation Search
Quick Links
Toggle: Topics

Making the rest of 2023 a success with grass and breeding

Making the rest of 2023 a success with grass and breeding

Spring 2023 started like a dream, with slurry, fertiliser and cows out in February and early March. However, since about the 10th March, record breaking rainfall has created a lot of extra work, increased costs and reduced production on all farms - especially heavy farms.

However, these tough times pass and how we react is critical to making a success of the rest of 2023, explains Michael Donoghue, B&T Dairy Adviser, Teagasc, Galway/Clare in this article.


On dry farms, many are broadly on track with 60-70 units of N spread and finished or very near to finishing the first round. For these farmers, it is about keeping pre-grazing covers at 1,400kg DM/ha, cover per cow between 160 and 190kg DM and managing supply and demand as we enter rapidly increasing growth rates.

On heavy farms, grazing for many is only getting started or they might have 20% to 30% grazed. Either way, the next month is going to be about trying to correct grass quality for the summer ahead. Aim to graze lower covers, less the 1,200kg DM/ha if possible. This will help to get through ground, cows will do less damage and they are easier clean out, thus regrowth will be quicker and better quality. The reality is on these heavier farms the first round of grazing is unlikely to be finished before regrowths get ahead for the cows. As we head into May, the heaviest covers should be cut for bales. Do not leave to go in with the first cut, as the ground will be out too long. Often June is one of the poorest months for protein percentage on farms and this is nearly all down to cows grazing poor quality grass. So make sure to have after-grass coming into the cow’s diet in June.

On the fertiliser side of things, hopefully 20 or 30 units of N were got out in early march and now it is a matter of topping this up to around 70 units. If no fertiliser has been spread go with 50 units of N. The above is vital, as all farms - especially heavier farms - need to maximise growth over the next five months, as silage reserves have been significantly run down or exhausted on many farms after an early autumn and now very late spring.

In terms of maximising grass growth, don’t forget lime - the cheapest of all fertiliser - phosphorous, potassium or sulphur. Grass only every grows to the most limiting factor, with warming soils, plenty of moisture and longer days don’t let the basics reduce your growth and or reduce nitrogen efficiency.


Most spring-calving dairy herds in Galway are two to three weeks away from breeding. High dairy EBI straws and high DBI beef straws should be in the pot. Bulls should be fertility tested, as it seems increasing more bulls are showing up as infertile or sub fertile, so get them checked out as the next four months represent a heavy workload for them. Remember bull ratios, young bull should be good for 15 cows/heifers, while mature bulls should be good with 25 cows/heifers.

Body Condition Score (BCS) on most farms has held up reasonably well, probably better than production. This is critical to the success of the 2023 breeding season. Grass is the best quality feed cows can get, so get silage out asap and aim to feed 2-4kg of meal. If BCS is less than required, put these cows on once a day milking. Leave them with the herd, just mark her and only milk her in the morning or evening, whatever you want. This should be done as soon as possible and last for about 4-6 weeks.

Spring 2023 has been one to forget in the main, but the milk season is only really getting going now. Getting cows back in calf, managing grass to maximise quantity and quality, while also building silage reserves for the winter of 2024, is the name of the game now.