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Managing variable grass growth rates on the Teagasc/Tirlán Future farms

Managing variable grass growth rates on the Teagasc/Tirlán Future farms

Farmers in the Teagasc/Tirlán Future Farm Programme are employing different strategies to counteract the effects of variable grass growth rates witnessed over recent weeks.

Sandra Hayes, Co-Ordinator of the programme, explained: “There is variation in the average farm cover (AFC) recorded across the farms. Some are supplementing with zero-grazed grass and others have risen the meal level temporality. The main thing is the group is walking regularly and reacting to the short fall or the surplus.”

For the week of June 14, average grass growth rates recorded on the monitor farms were 54kg DM/ha/day, just slightly above average demand at 52kg DM/ha/day. A degree of variation existed, however, in terms of growth rates with a range of 30kg DM/ha/day to 71kg DM/ha/day evident – meaning that some farms were in surplus and were building AFC and others had to introduce strategies to avoid reducing the farm’s AFC.

Sandra outlined one such strategy: “Many have low pre-grazing covers of 1,200kg DM/ha so instead of introducing silage, meal is increased.” Across the farms, meal feeding levels averaged 5kg/cow/day last week, ranging from 3kg/cow/day up to 6kg/cow/day. With moisture in the ground following rainfall last Thursday and Friday, warmer temperatures expected, and slurry and fertiliser applications up to date, an increase in grass growth rates on the participating farms is expected this week.

Clover management

Farmers participating in the Teagasc/Tirlán Future Farm Programme have placed a firm focus on incorporating white clover into grazing swards. Despite a large percentage of the grass on the milking platforms having clover incorporated, Sandra noted that the clover content is lower than last year.

Given this, she reminded farmers of the importance of clover scoring, adding: “Clover scoring is an important tool on the farm. If the clover is not there to fix the nitrogen (N), then chemical N must be increased. I am encouraging all of the monitor farmers to review their clover scores at grass walks.”

Farmer Focus

On Tuesday, June 11, Sandra visited the farm of John and Shane Fitzgerald near Portlaw, Co. Waterford. At the time of the visit, both John and Shane were busy spreading fertiliser and getting slurry out via LESS in preparation for second-cut silage. 0-7-30 was also being spread on the multi species swards, as it makes up to 20% of the swards on the milking platform.

Commenting on the visit and the grass walk completed with Shane’s fiancée Kate, Sandra said: “We did notice a fall-off in the clover content of both the grass-clover swards and the clover in the multi species.

“As a lot of the paddocks were grazed well, it will be left to score once they have a higher cover in a week or two. It just goes to show how important it is to walk the farm regularly. Decisions regarding pre-grazing cover, supplementation etc. all need to be monitored closely in order to maintain milk solids. Walk grass as often as you can.”

Sandra also outlined how the Fitzgeralds have managed with variable grass growth rates, adding: “Shane had been feeding 4kg of meal and 4kg of silage as AFC was low. Growth was 72kg DM/ha/day so demand could be increased and silage dropped. If the farm was not walked, supplement would have remained in too long. The next walk will deem if meal can be dropped. The 21 day submission rate was 80% and 28% was the return rate from those cows served 24 days plus.”

Upcoming event

On Friday, June 21 at 11am, Donal Kavanagh will host a Farming for the Future Open Farm Walk and Talk on his farm in Baltinglass, Eircode: W91 YD25.

Graphic containing key details of event on Donal Kavanaghs farm including date and topics as contained with text of this article

Topics include:

  • Update on Future Farm performance from Donal Kavanagh;
  • Tirlán's Farm Support Service and River Slaney Project;
  • Panel discussion on the Nitrates Derogation and water quality, with speakers from Teagasc, DAFM, IFA, ICMSA and EPA;
  • Practical steps to improve water quality, nutrient use efficiency and boost on-farm profitability.

Find out more about the event here.

For more information on the Teagasc/Tirlán Future Farm Programme, click here.