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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Beef & sheep farmers told fertiliser expenditure ‘must be clearly thought out this year’

On beef and sheep farms, it will be a “balancing” act between purchasing and sowing the correct amount of chemical fertiliser to achieve the growth required to graze livestock and also to produce the silage that is required to feed them over the winter months.

That is according to Rachel Megarrell, CAFRE Beef and Sheep Adviser, who provided advice to farmers during a recent webinar from AFBI, Agrisearch and CAFRE.

The webinar focused on using fertilisers effectively in light of recent price increases.

During the session, she highlighted that target yields would vary for individual farms depending on:

  • Grass-type;
  • Age of sward;
  • Livestock requirements.

Fertiliser on sheep and beef farms

Therefore, farmers should correlate nitrogen application rates to the tonnage of grass required.

She said: “Having a clear plan in place that relates to your winter feeding strategy this year is critical.”

“The key here will be to estimate the amount of silage required to meet animal requirements efficiently and effectively for the number of stock to be held on-farm.”

Rachel presented a “practical” scenario based on a beef and sheep example.

She covered completing a fodder budget and determining the yield that your land is capable of producing to setting the target area to be closed off for harvest.

She provided slurry and fertiliser recommendations for 1st and 2nd cut silage. Furthermore, she discussed the cost of growing that crop based on current fertiliser prices.

Spreading slurry 

Using a current soil analysis report, she advises farmers to target slurry supplies to land that requires P and K. Furthermore, she stressed prioritising land that you will cut for silage.

“Slurry is a valuable resource and must be applied at the right time, at the right rate using the right equipment. Chemical fertiliser can then be used to top up to meet crop requirements.”

“Farmers should look critically at the grazing systems that they currently have in operation on-farm. Revise these with the aim to maximise grass utilisation to get the best return from the chemical fertiliser that has been applied. “

“Consider a move away from a set stocked grazing system to a rotational or paddock system. This aims to graze the grass plant at the correct stage. Then, allow a period of recovery to take place.”

Longer-term, she advises farmers to continue with soil sampling and apply lime per analysis to ensure chemical inputs are maximised.

Rachel concluded with the message that “expenditure on fertiliser must be clearly thought out this year”.

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