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Wet weather management techniques back in play

Wet weather management techniques back in play

After what has been described as the wettest July on record, which has resulted in grazing conditions becoming challenging on many farms, this week’s Grass 10 newsletter focuses on the implementation of wet weather management techniques.

Grazing conditions have been hampered – especially on heavier soils – by further heavy rainfall during the week. Many Met Éireann stations have experienced between 200% and 300% of the long-term average rainfall for the month of July.

On most farms, wet weather techniques such as 12-hour allocations and back fencing should be implemented in order to make the best use of grass as possible. On heavier farms, on-off grazing to minimise damage should be practiced, with an allocation of high quality baled silage when animals are housed. Animals will not make good use of very high grass covers at the minute, so try and keep animals in 1,300-1,500kg DM/ha covers.

Management to prevent bloat

After the heavy rainfall, dry matter percentages have dropped considerably, with readings of 14%, 13% and 12.5% recorded for Athenry, Ballyhaise and Moorepark, respectively.

For farmers with swards with good clover percentages, it is important to implement the management techniques to avoid bloat. Bloat oil should consistently be in troughs, a small allocation of fibre (dry silage, hay or straw) should be offered at milking time and 12 hour breaks and a breakfast break (2-3 hour allocation) after turnout to prevent the initial gorging on white clover should be implemented.

Planning your autumn grazing strategy

Although grazing conditions are challenging, the focus must remain on building covers for the autumn for those operating heavier stocking rates.

Grass growth rates from PastureBase Ireland are 60kg DM/ha and 52kg DM/ha, respectively on dairy and drystock farms. Average farm cover (AFC) has also increased over the last week, even though grazing conditions have deteriorated.

Where growth has increased, it is important to keep in line with the summer grazing targets for now. Use this opportunity to removed paddocks with poor grass quality as surplus bales for those with lower stocking rates when weather conditions allow.

Table 1: When should I start to buid autumn grass?

Stocking rateDate
3.5LU/ha First week of August
3LU/ha Second week of August
2.5LU/ha Third week of August

On dry farms with stocking rates >3.0LU/ha, plans should be made to start building grass from this week. The first half of autumn grazing begins in August during the build-up phase. This is when AFC is increased and rotation length extended (farm target depends on your peak AFC and autumn grass growth). Use the grass budget on PastureBase Ireland to help you decide when to start building grass on your farm.

Table 2: Autumn grazing targets

DateCover/cow (kg DM)AFC (kg DM/ha)Rotation length
Stocking rate of 2.5 LU/ha
1st August 180 450 20 days
Mid-August 200 500 25 days
1st September 300 750 30 days
Stocking rate of 3.0 LU/ha
1st August 180 550 20 days
Mid-August 250 750 25 days
1st September 330 990 30 days
Stocking rate of 3.5 LU/ha
1st August 190 665 20 days
Mid-August 220 770 25 days
1st September 280 980 30 days

This article originally appeared in the Grass10 weekly newsletter. For more information on the Grass10 Campaign, click here.

Also read: Are you the Sustainable Grassland Farmer of the Year 2023?

Also read: Maximising the return from grass in autumn 2023

Also read: 6 key steps to deal with wet conditions on beef farms