Dairylink: Managing grass on farm on Dairylink farms yields results already

16th June 2016

Dairylink: Managing grass on farm on Dairylink farms yields results already

With growth rates tapering off from a season high quality is back in order on Dairylink farms.

A key target for all Dairylink Ireland project farmers is to increase grass growth capacity on their farms. Every project farm situation is unique in terms of varying soil type and fertility, local climatic conditions, stocking rates and the management capabilities of the particular farmer.

The impact these factors have on both grass growth and the quantity of grass utilised can be seen in the grass growth information on each farm for 2015 with a 3.2tDM/ha annual difference in total growth between the farms. On average, only 7.5t of grazed grass is utilised per hectare on Irish farms, but data from the best commercial and research dairy farms indicate that this can be increased significantly, and with grass clearly the cheapest feed available increasing growth and utilisation will result in improved farm margin.

A key driver for increasing grass growth capacity on project farms is the weekly measurement of grass cover and then using this information to make decisions.

Bill Brown Millisle Co Down

The farm walk is completed on Monday morning with the measurements added to Agrinet immediately. Before my walk this week I was worried the dry spell was starting to show signs of its impact on my grazing platform. The previous week my growth rate had fallen to 50kg/ha per day and was well below demand, which is over 80kg/day.

Rain last weekend has just arrived on time for my farm, and we have the grazing platform well set up for the next four weeks. Growth is back up to just above 70kg/ha and decisions made at the start of June have paid off with top-quality grass in front of the herd now. My grazing block is stocked heavy at 4.6 cow/ha currently but given the exceptional growth rates grass was still starting to move ahead of the herd with stem and heavy pre-grazing covers coming in to the grazing block from the last week in May.

Back then my average cover per cow was around 200kg/head. This prompted the decision to take out two paddocks for bales. We only got two bales per acre but the aim was to get the paddock growing again and remove the stem from the base of the sward.

Cows will be moving into these paddocks this weekend with a target pre grazing cover of 1500kg/ha. After some machine repair work I got my pre-cutting mower into action and have been pre cutting some paddocks. Getting in early and pre cutting solves the stem problem for some paddocks and in my opinion is less severe on reducing growth rates than topping during dry conditions.

Nigel Corbett Dramara, Co Down

Grass growth rates are being measured on this farm for the first time this year and we use Agrinet to analyse the growth data each week. Measurement of grass is new to me and already I do see the benefit from the effort each week. At the beginning it was difficult to motivate myself to walk the grazing block each week, but now I look forward to the Monday walk which takes about one and half hours to complete. The walk itself gives you a great handle on the grazing block. You see at first hand what is happening in each paddock and, thankfully, I usually find more grass than I would expect. Growth has been steady on the farm, with my heavier soil type enjoying the warm weather.

Just two thirds of the paddocks on the platform were starting to suffer from drought with the rain this week solving the problem. Measurement has flagged some underperforming paddocks on the block which need to be looked for soil fertility. I have much more grass taken off the platform than ever before and grass quality is better. Heifers grazed one paddock, with this paddock returned to the cow block last week. I have another paddock to go for second cut of silage which will be taken in 10 days time. Meal feeding has been reduced with cows on maintenance plus 21 litres.

Some paddocks have been topped, but cows have been cleaning paddocks out well. We have tried to target lower pre-grazing covers over the last four weeks as cows were leaving residual grass in paddocks which was affecting regrowth quality. Targeting lower pre-grazing cover of 1400kg/ha available has worked well.

This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of the Irish Farmers Journal. Please click on the below Irish Farmers Journal logo to be brought to additional dairy articles

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