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Spring Grazing Dairy Farm Walks

”You cannot buy a better feed than spring grass.” That was the key message from Dr Michael O’Donovan, Teagasc grassland researcher, at the announcement by Teagasc of a series of twenty-one Spring Grazing Dairy Farm Walks. Dairy farmers have a fantastic opportunity this year to include large amounts of grass in their cows’ diet as grass covers are well ahead of target, according to Teagasc data.

With lower milk prices predicted for early 2016, it is vital that every dairy farmer makes maximum use of available grass. Spring grass is the best feed for freshly calved dairy cows while early turnout has the added benefit of improving the overall grass growing capacity of the farm. John Maher, Dairy specialist in Teagasc said: “Teagasc research has shown that early grazing increases grass growth, grass quality and utilisation for the entire year. So it really is a case that ‘a good start is half the battle’.”

The series of farm walks announced today will focus on the practicalities of managing spring grazing. It is one thing to have plenty of grass; it is another to use it effectively. Dairy farmers can use the Teagasc Spring Rotation Planner to estimate the appropriate area to allocate to their dairy herd each day during February and March, while supplementation decisions can be based on the amount of grass on the area allocated. Dairy farmers who have used the Teagasc Spring Rotation Planner use more grass in the spring as a result of better decisions. The key targets when using the Spring Rotation Planner are to graze 30% of the farm by 1st March, a further 30% by mid-March and complete the first rotation by the first week of April.

While there is plenty of grass on dairy farms presently, it is also important that dairy farmers apply adequate fertiliser Nitrogen to stimulate the grass sward to grow. A review of Teagasc research has indicated that for every 1kg of fertiliser N applied results in 10 kg Dry Matter of grass growth. This is clearly worthwhile with a potential cost: benefit ratio of 1:4 if the additional grass grown replaces an alternative purchased feed. Teagasc advice is that as soon as the closed period is passed and ground conditions allow, all dairy farmers should spread their first round of nitrogen.

Twenty-one on-farm demonstrations will take place nationwide, starting on Monday 25th January. All events start at 11.00am. Details of dates and venues are available at Spring-Grazing-Farm-Walks

These events are part of the programme supported by Dairy Research Ireland, which is funded by dairy farmer levy.