Start Growing Your 2022 Spring Grass Now!
At a farm walk outside Tuam during the week the topic of preparing for spring grass in 2022 raised a few eyebrows when there was a visible abundance of fresh green grass on the farm. Gabriel Trayers, Drystock Adviser, Teagasc Tuam reports on a recent experience he had and advises to plan ahead
Discussion group finds grazing solution
Having grass in March seemed to be of no concern and the initial challenge posed was how to graze the heavy covers of grass that was in front of the stock. All of the other farmers in the group were in the same position. After some discussion a solution was found - while the weather is dry the heaviest covers of grass in the heavy parts of the farm were to be grazed immediately. The host farmer would graze these areas quickly in 12 hour blocks using temporary wire reels. This would also make the cattle graze bare to 4cm which is important for leafy re-growths. When the rain does come he can move the cattle to the drier grounds and then graze those fields. In the event of very wet weather heavier cattle will be housed and lighter cattle will be left out.
The host farmer estimated that he had at least 6-7 weeks grass on the farm which would bring a close to grazing for the year to the end of November. He would have then achieved at least 220 days grazing in the year - a job well done! However achieving this target of 220 days at grass, the farmer agreed that he needs grass in March. Also, with most of the group having ewes lambing around St. Patrick’s Day they all agreed that having grass available in spring was critical, so eventually we got around to the topic!
The annual grassland management calendar starts in the autumn.
The closing date of paddocks and how they are grazed out in the months of October and November has a direct effect on the amount of grass available on the farm in February and March. The 60:40 autumn rotation planner is a tool used during the last grazing rotation. The plan must be to close up a set amount of the farm each week until the whole grazing area is closed and animals housed. As grass growth rates from the first of November to the first of March are very low or close enough to zero, any grass to be grazed in February and early March will have to be grown this October.
The 60:40 rule of thumb
The first paddocks/field to be closed should be those that will be grazed first in the spring. These fields are generally the driest, most sheltered and closest to the yard. The planner is based on a 60:40 rule of thumb, where 60% of the total farm area would be closed by November 10th or one to two weeks earlier on wetter farms. For example, on this 70 acre farm, starting on October 7th, 8 acres per week will be grazed and closed with a total of 42 acres (60%) to be closed by November 10. The remaining 28 acres (40%) will be grazed over the following 4 weeks and closed.
Any grass to be grazed in February and early March will have to be grown this October
Close a set amount each week
A consistent amount should be closed each week up to November 10th. When calculating your target areas, include all lands to be grazed in the spring, including silage ground that will be grazed before closing for silage. Avoid all temptation to re-graze the areas that were closed in October. Another red card offence is allowing stock to “roam” the farm over the winter months and then wondering why there is no grass in spring when demand is high! Spring grass is worth €2 per livestock/unit/day so it is much more valuable then.
The idea is that when all paddocks are closed by early December that there would be a range of grass covers on the farm from grazed out (4cm) to 8cm. This gives an average farm cover of around 6cm which equates to 500 to 600kgs of dry matter per hectare. This will be the grass that will be available next spring before the growth starts.
Read more on Autumn Grazing Management here
Teagasc Advisors are regular contibutors of articles here on Teagasc Daily. If you require any help or advice in the area of growing grass, contact your local Teagasc Advisory Office here: Advisory Regions.