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Will it ever Grow?

Will it ever Grow?

Mícheál Kelly, Advisor, Teagasc Galway is somewhat frustrated with the weather effect on grass growth currently but takes hope from Grass Growth Predictions for the week ahead. He stresses the importance of getting fertiliser out now, getting good grass utilisation and planning for silage making

The weather had finally picked up it seemed and then the cold nights with a touch of frost returned. It seems we have become accustomed to the ‘mixed bag’ weather forecasts over the last number of years but for the most part we have learned to deal with the new patterns and management on farms has adjusted accordingly. Currently the average daily growth rate stands at 43kgDM/Ha for Galway (49 kgDM/Ha on average nationally) based on Pasturebase figures but in the coming week the predicted growth rate is 74kgDM/Ha for Athenry.

There is either a feast or famine dilemma with grass on a lot of farms at the moment due to the weather this spring. For the most part, where grass has been grazed the regrowth is coming back ok but grass growth rates seem to be very slow where no grazing has taken place yet. This should only be a blip for now as growth rates generally shoot up as we move through May but there are a few key areas to address right now.

Nitrogen Application – It is essential to get going with at least 30 units/acre at this stage in the form of protected urea or in a compund form. We need to do all we can to stimulate grass growth to meet the demands of the stock. Where the P&K levels are shown to be low on the farm, it is a good idea to start with a compound fertiliser now to top levels up. Phosphorus is very important at this time of year to stimulate the roots of the grass plant so anywhere that may have been damaged by grazing in wet weather will benefit from this. The main thing is to get fertiliser out at this stage. It takes days before fertiliser begins to works after spreading as the granules need to be broken down. Moisture speeds up this process so I would be wary of delaying fertiliser application because as we have seen in recent years, things can rapidly dry up in May and we don’t want fertiliser sitting on top of the ground and the grass standing still beside it.

Grass Utilisation - Try to graze tight before stock are moved on and this will allow good quality grass to regrow. In first rotation grazing it will clean out the old dead material grown over the winter and allow the grass plant to generate new highly digestible leaf material and additional tillers. Over 80% of fresh leafy grass can be digested and used by the animal, whereas less than 50% of the mature stem and dead material content of a sward is of any benefit. Wire reels and pigtail posts can do a lot of work in improving the clean-out of larger fields on farms. Tightening cattle up by reducing the grazing area will reduce the wastage of grass and prevent the grazing of any regrowth, which will slow down grass recovery. Grass grows one new leaf per week and if we stay clipping the emerging leaf we are setting ourselves back by days again in terms of growth rates.

Silage Ground – There are mixed reports from farmers on the ground with regard to closing for silage. Many have grazed it and closed up already while others have held back on closing due to a grass and silage shortage. One thing we are definite on is that we need enough silage next winter. Quality is important but quantity is essential, and many on light ground who suffered the effects of drought conditions last summer have not grazed off the silage ground at all this spring in the hope that they can cut a heavier crop early and have the pits full so that they can enjoy the sunny weather, rather than worry about it. Dry conditions last year scorched the leaves of the grass and silage crops literally stood still leaving many farmers with no choice but to cut what they had and try for a heavier second cut. Where ground was grazed late into November/December last year, the quality of this grass is still very high as there was very little growth over winter so animal performance should not suffer.

It is quite hard to predict how things will go so we must prepare for all scenarios which is a consequence of our climate but hopefully there will be a lush green colour about the place for the rest of the grazing season.

If you liked this article you might also like to read Short of Grass in May? What are the options? 

Catch the latest on Grass in this week's Grass10 Newsletter here: 145th Edition Grass10 Newsletter 4-5-21 (PDF)