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Maintaining grass quality as we approach May

Maintaining grass quality as we approach May

Every year, farmers get caught moving from spring to summer grazing management. This week as part of their weekly newsletter, the Teagasc Grass10 team ask are you ready for the change?

With a jump in growth rates expected on top of high farm covers, walking the farm is necessary to get the wedge back on track. This should be completed once per week to avoid poor grass quality in May.

On farms where the average farm cover is high, demand should be increased by removing silage from the diet, reducing supplement and grazing heifers on the grazing block.

Where the first rotation has not been finished, the second rotation grass swards need to be prioritised for grazing. These first rotation paddocks, or any heavy second rotation paddocks, should be skipped and there may be an option to bale some of these this week.

Use the mid-season grazing targets

The mid-season grazing targets have been established to work for all farms to keep a balance between grass supply and grass quality. They work very well when monitored weekly and acted upon.

  • Average farm cover should be between 600-700kg DM/ha across all enterprises;
  • Cover/LU should be around 180kg DM/LU on dry farms and 200kg DM/ha on heavy soils (PBI at 238kg DM/LU);
  • Days ahead on drystock farms should be around 14 days ahead;
  • Match demand to grass growth. Check your PastureBase Ireland records for historic growth rates for your farm. This will help you make decisions on stocking rate, reseeding, silage, etc.

Grazing heights

Grazing conditions over the past six weeks have been challenging, resulting in residuals on paddocks grazed during this period suffering.

With only 2-3 weeks before stem appears in swards, post-grazing sward heights of 4cm should be achieved to ensure excellent grass quality in subsequent rotations. Paddocks carrying a heavy residual from the previous rotation should be grazed at 1,100-1,200kg DM/ha to help reach this 4cm target.

Fertiliser applications

Where not already completed, aim to get fertiliser applications up to date on both grazing and silage ground this week. Include phosphorous and potassium where necessary and remember to include sulphur in fertiliser applications from April to early July. The target by early May is to have 80 units/ac of nitrogen applied on dry paddocks and 65 units/ac on heavy paddocks. This figure includes slurry and consult your nutrient management plan.