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Grass10: Time to act as growth passes demand

Grass10: Time to act as growth passes demand

Growth rates on both dairy and beef farms have passed demand this week.

Figures from PastureBase Ireland show that growth rates of 73kg DM/ha/day have been recorded on dairy farms, with demand standing at 59kg DM/ha/day. Meanwhile, on drystock farms, the PastureBase figure for growth is 67kg DM/ha/day – 25kg DM/ha/day ahead of demand.

With the rise in grass growth rates, Grass10 is advising farmers to take action and to match demand to grass grown. Measuring grass twice weekly is recommended or - at the very least - twice in three weeks.

To optimise profit from grass, the grazing goal for the next 90 days is to graze covers of 1,300-1,400kg DM/ha. However, figures from PastureBase show that this is being exceeded on both dairy and beef farms; pre-grazing yields on dairy farms are at 1,650kg DM/ha and 1,750kg DM/ha on beef farms. In terms of targets, an average farm cover of 600-700kg DM/ha and rotation length of 18-21 days is desired.

Plan to correct grass quality

The Grass10 team also advise on correcting grass quality, following challenging grazing conditions which have led to poor graze-outs and lower sward quality on many farms. The opportunity to correct this starts this week.

  • It is important feed is not wasted, so removing surplus grass by baling is the best solution.
  • Where surplus bales are removed, replace phosphorous and potassium offtakes with slurry or compound fertiliser (about 4 bales/ac = 1,000 gal/ac LESS).
  • Not everywhere can be baled this week. Grazing paddocks at lower covers (1,100-1,200kg DM/ha) will help sort some of the problem.
  • Identify paddocks for mowing next rotation. Avoid topping or pre-mowing, as this will waste feed and reduce animal performance.

Use projected planner to make grazing decisions

Grass growth predictions indicate that growth rates will remain strong, staying in a position of surplus, so farmers need to develop a plan to ensure animals graze 1,300-1,400kg DM/ha covers. This can be achieved by using the projected planner, available on PastureBase, with the predicted grass growth rates. Using this planner will allow you to predict your AFC seven days from now, giving you confidence with your decision making.

Optimum summer stocking rates

Many farmers will be looking to maximise the area of first-cut silage this year to build fodder reserves. Aim to stock the grazing block where the demand is in the region of 60-65kg DM/ha/day, to allow for removing surpluses and correcting grass quality. Where a livestock unit is eating 16kg DM of grass per day, this will mean a stock rate of about 4LU/ha. In general, drystock farms will have a lower stocking rate and require more winter feed reserves.

This article was adapted from the Grass10 Campaign weekly newsletter. For more information on the campaign and to sign up to future newsletters, click here.