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Management advice as the difficult spring moves into April

Management advice as the difficult spring moves into April

With weather continuing to make management difficult on farms and considerably more rain on the way, the Teagasc Grass10 team has offered some key advice to farmers as part of its weekly newsletter.

Grazing has been disrupted on many farms this spring. Complicating this is the predicted rainfall levels, stretching from 38mm to 57mm over the coming days.

As shown on PastureBase Ireland up to April 1, the national percentage area grazed was 60%. However, this isn’t painting the full picture and the range is more appropriate, with some farms having 0% grazed and others up at 90%.

The Grass10 team notes that there are two groups of farms emerging – those who have 70-80% grazed and are keeping an eye on the second rotation, and those with less than 30% grazed.

For farms in the former category, covers of 900-1,000kg DM/ha are required on the first three paddocks if you are approaching the second rotation in the next 10 days. With predicted growth rates in the mid 30kgs DM/ha expected, grassland managers have been advised to match growth with demand as the last remaining heavy covers are removed. Additionally, it is vital to keep measuring and to use supplement to extend the rotation if necessary. Damaging paddocks during the second rotation – if at all possible – should also be avoided.

For farmers falling into the second category with less than 30% grazed, the grazing of medium covers to increase the percentage of area grazed has been recommended. Although grazing conditions are proving challenging, the use of on-off grazing has been recommended to minimise damage, as every three hours at grass is important for the animal at this time of the year.

Figure 1: Advice from the Grass10 team on managing farms with a low percentage area grazed

Advice from the Grass10 team on managing farms with a low percentage area grazed

Feeding the cow sufficiently

The Grass10 team also highlighted the importance of feeding your cows sufficiently at times when grass is not in the diet. Key advice includes:

  • Prioritise feeding the cow over the next week, especially if animals are fully housed;
  • Where cows are housed fulltime, increase concentrate supplementation to protect body condition score as animals approach peak production;
  • Silage stocks are running low on farms in certain areas of the country, try and purchase silage locally - if possible - to get you out of a shortage before looking at other feed alternatives.

The Grass10 team also reminded farmers that Teagasc advisors and specialists will be on hand to take questions from farmers that have issues at the upcoming Spring Clover Walks. Find details of the nearest walk to your farm here.

For more advice from the Grass10 team, access the full weekly newsletter here.

Also read: How do we best feed the dairy cow in the current situation?