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Grass10: Refocus on mid-season grazing targets

Grass10: Refocus on mid-season grazing targets

Recent rainfall has helped reduce soil moisture deficits in most areas. However, some areas are still in a high soil moisture deficit. This week’s Grass10 newsletter focuses on achieving mid-season grazing targets now that grass growth rates have recovered for many.

With increased moisture and high soil temperatures, grass growth has jumped in the past week nationally. This is predicted to increase further, as more rainfall is predicted over the next seven days.

A growth rate of 60kg DM/ha/day has been recorded on dairy farms, where the demand is at 51kg DM/ha/day. On beef farms, growth rates of 50kg DM/ha/day have been recorded, while demand stood at 37kg DM/ha/day for farms measuring through PastureBase Ireland. With growth now exceeding supply, the focus now for most farms should be to reduce supplement to increase demand in line with grass growth and supply. Walking the farm every five days will allow you to make the best decisions and control costs.

After the prolonged dry period, which stressed grass plants and caused seed heads to emerge, grass quality has been a challenge on some farms. Where this is the case, grass quality can be corrected by cutting and baling some paddocks as growth increases above demand. Some paddocks can also be baled in the next rotation. Another avenue to correct grass quality is to enter paddocks at covers of 1,000-1,100kg DM/ha. This will make it easier for stock to graze out now. Topping/pre-mowing should be avoid where there is surplus grass on the farm.

Mid-season grazing targets

  • The goal is to get the grass wedge and PastureBase figures back to the mid-season grazing targets.
  • Rotation length can be shortened to 18-21 days and this will be key to allow grass plants recover.
  • Let average farm cover (AFC) build back to 600-700kg DM/ha, cover per cow of 160-180kg DM/cow and 12-14 days ahead.
  • Predicted grass growth rates will be ahead of current demand, but many wedges are flat due to prolonged period of low growth.
  • If a flat wedge exists, many paddocks will reach the pre-grazing yield at the same time, so start grazing the first covers at 1,000kg DM/ha to avoid running into heavy pre-grazing yields.
  • Make sure animals are grazing out paddocks to 4cm. Dry matter percentage and grazing conditions are good so target high grass utilisation.
  • Most reseeds should be suitable for post-emergence spray. Graze when they get to ~800kg DM/ha to strengthen roots and encourage tillering.

Fertilsier for grazing and silage

The Grass10 team explain that the maintenance phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) requirements of a paddock in any given year will depend on the yield of the paddock and if it is primarily grazed of if there is silage harvested. When grazed, animals will recycle 90% of the K in the grass back on to the paddock in dung and urine. If baled, 100% of the K in the grass is removed from the field. Use watery slurry or parlour washings to supply nutrients especially to clover or silage paddocks. In addition, make sure enough sulphur is spread on the farm. It is essential for nitrogen (N) uptake and fixation in the grass-clover swards. Aim for 15-20u N/ac + S, there will be increased N release from the soil due to rainfall and above average soil temperatures.

For more information on the Grass10 Campaign or to sign up for subsequent newsletters, click here.

The Grass10 team will hold a farm walk on the farm of Michael McGuigan, Grassland Farmer of the Year Drystock winner, on Thursday, July 6th at 6pm. Michael is an excellent grassland, nutrient and clover manager and this event is a must for all drystock farms who want to take their farm to the next level. Michael is also involved in the Teagasc FutureBeef programme. More details on this event are available here.