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Summer Management of Grassland and Cattle

Summer Management of Grassland and Cattle

John Galvin, B&T Drystock Adviser, Galway Galway/Clare, discusses grassland management, breeding and herd management, reseeding, parasite control in cattle, and farm safety.

Driving the roads of the county this time of year, apart from the vast array of election posters at every crossroads, it is amazing the contrast in levels of management of grass that exist on farms. In July, grass growth generally slows down after the May/June surge and it is an important month for getting second cut silage crops harvested and getting quality back in the sward and setting the farm up for a plentiful supply of quality grass in the autumn.

Grassland Management

Due to a surge in growth rates in the month of June there has been an oversupply of grass on many dry-stock farms. Managing this supply has become a challenge with many pastures gone to stem resulting in poor grass quality. Forcing cattle especially young growing cattle to graze this will result in reduced intakes, reduced growth rates and weight gain. Dry autumn calving cows and dry ewes are ideal candidates to try and clean out these fields. Otherwise a combination of the use of strip wires and topping is the only other way to get quality back in the sward. On higher stocked farms where grass is in high demand or perhaps getting scarce apply .75-1 bag of Pro Urea + S per acre and cease topping.

Fields with high grass covers (Halfway up the wellington) should be removed as baled silage. After-grass is an ideal quality feed for young growing stock; however grazing weaned bucket reared calves on lush after grass can lead to scouring due to incomplete rumen development. Due to a wet and cold May first cut silage crops were generally below average this year, so it would be advisable to carry out a winter feed budget and plan for second cut silage accordingly. Second cut silage ground should have received 2000-2500gls of cattle slurry + 1-1.5 bags of Pro-Urea + S.

Breeding & Herd Management

The breeding season is gone past half way at this stage on most spring calving suckler farms. It is hugely important to keep a watchful high on cow and bull activity. At this stage, there should be a big drop off in activity. If a bull is running with the herd, assuming heat detection should be close to 100%, the compactness of conception and subsequent calving will be determined by the conception rate once the cows are cycling. A mature bull per 20-25 cows whilst young bulls should only be let run with 10-15 cows.

Suckler farmers need to have definitive start and end to their breeding season and more importantly their calving season. Withdrawing the bull by mid- July will result in having no calves born in May next year. Make plans to scan the herd and replacement heifers a month after the breeding season ceases to identify any empty ones. With the current scarcity, high demand and positive outlook for finished cattle, empty cows and heifers should be finished in the Autumn/early winter to reduce winter feeding costs.  Generally feeding meals at grass does not pay and is really only compensating for poor grassland management.


Make plans now for fields that are to be reseeded. Carry out soil analysis to establish the lime and nutrient status (results take >2weeks). Old pastures should be sprayed off with a glyphosate product to allow sufficient time (3-4 weeks) for complete sward destruction. It is also worth noting that the National Liming Programme extension for spreading lime is Friday 28th June 2024.

Parasites in Cattle at Grass

Lungworms/gutworms tend to become prevalent in the second half of grazing season. The summer so far with mixed periods of showers and dry periods are conducive to higher levels of parasite activity. Young stock especially bucket reared calves are highly susceptible. The symptoms for lungworms include coughing when suddenly moved, which if neglected can leave the animal open to secondary infections such as pneumonia.  Gut worm symptoms may not be as apparent in cattle but these include lack of intake, lack of thrive and scouring.  Faecal egg counting can be a very useful tool to establish if a treatment is warranted and if carried out before and after treatment, the efficacy of the product used can be determined. Faecal egg counting whilst very useful in detecting gut worms, it is not a reliable method of detecting lung worms.

Farm Safety

Similar to road safety, farm safety needs to be included in all our daily thoughts and conversations. When undertaking any task or job on the farm it is important to pause and plan it out thoroughly. This ideally should be done many days in advance when it comes to the large jobs especially, be it with machinery, animal handling and farm maintenance e.tc. Ask the questions, what is the best and safest way of carrying out the task? Am I capable of doing it? Do I need help? Have I the correct equipment and protective gear to carry it out? How long will it take?

The answers to these questions will best equip a farmer plan their work and to foresee and deal with any surprises that may occur. They may even help prevent a serious accident or even worse.

Lastly after exercising your right to vote, exercise your right to a holiday/break of some description. With busy lives and lifestyles it has never been more important to take a break.