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How to get your grazing back on track for March

Teagasc Grass10 advisor, John Douglas, joined Emma-Louise Coffey on Teagasc’s Dairy Edge podcast recently to discuss March grazing tips and targets, tips and Pasture Base.

John outlined that Ireland has seen high volumes of rainfall in February and that grazing has mostly been impacted on the drier farms thus far.

According to the Grass10 advisor, some dry farms may be on target currently, and more of them are only half of the way to their targets at this stage.

For heavier farms, he stated that grazing in February may be a bonus, with a lot of these farms having turned out at the weekend, or due to turn out over the coming.

All and all, he acknowledged a lot of farmers are behind playing catch up in terms of grazing.

Farms not on target for March

The Grass 10 advisor stated that the goal is to begin the second rotation on time, having a strong supply of good quality grass.

“They [farmers] would have expected to get 30% or maybe close to it, grazed during February. As part of a spring-rotation plan, and they have been impacted.” John Douglas explained.

“You have some dry farms that kept well with their targets, even though the rain did fall; farms may be in the east that did not get quite as much rain as the south.”

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“For farmers who are behind, it is a case of focusing on getting as many areas grazed as possible, over the next week to ten days.”

“Getting through the area and catching up on targets. There is no point in trying to use the same spring rotation planner for farmers that are on target and farmers that are behind the target.”

John stated that paddocks only grazed in the last week have a recovery period of close to 45-days to have an adequate grass supply back on farms.

Setting new targets

John outlined some general dates for targets:

  • 30% grazed by March 1st out by possibly 10-days;
  • 30% of the farm grazed within March 10th:
  • Another 30% by March 25th;
  • Finishing up somewhere between April 10th- April 15th.

He advises farmers behind targets to:

  • Adjust their spring-rotation planner;
  • Moving dates back by 7-10-days.
First rotation for farms on a heavier soil

John believes a heavy soil farm’s motto is “graze what you can when you can”.

“If you are not out already on heavy soils, you would want to be walking your driest soils daily this week. It might not be a paddock, but it might be a section of a paddock that is dry enough.”

“This is where your grazing infrastructure comes into play if you have enough roadways, multiple access points and back fencing to allow for some on-off grazing this week to get them back out.”

“Two-three-hour grazing during the day will allow cows to get 90% of their forage intake in. If cows are eating the equivalent of ten kilograms of forage at the moment, they will be able to get 8-9 kilograms through 2-3 hours of grazing. They may need about 2-3 kilograms of dry matter silage to see them through the day.”

He feels managing grazing is all about having percentages grazed, equalling a good grass supply starting the second round.

Recommendations

John believes farmers should leave 200-300kgs of matters behind in each grazing during summertime. When the weather is dry, he added, aim to get everything grazed off.

“If you can do that over 24-hours, there is no real issue. The issue comes into it if you are not getting good graze outs, then you should be allocating better and probably moving to 12-hours.”

“Also, on drier farms that have over 20%-30%, they are probably looking on getting into some heavier covers while the weather is still good. So, they might have some covers over 1300-1400, that they are going to get grazed out.”

“To get a good graze out on those covers, probably 12-hours is necessary.”

Pasture Base

John is predicting that grass will grow 20kgs on average.

According to John, a data run from Pasture Base (at the time of the interview) showed 925kgs of dry matter per hectare.

He feels there is a huge opportunity to get cows out to grass and reduce silage and meal in the diet.

“We can see from Pasture Base there is an average of 2.5 kilograms of silage going into cows at the moment. Those farms will have to question should I be grazing more and reducing silage?”

“If we take the figure 925 and say it grows 20 a day between now and the end of the first rotation, and we say the farm is stocked at 2.5. If we are stocked at 2.5, and each cow is eating about 12 kilograms of grass, that is the demand of about 30.”

“We are taking the growth at 20, so we are in defecate every day of about ten a day for the next 40-days. So, if we take that figure of 925 and take 400 off, it brings you back to an average cover of 525, which is about where you want to end up for the end of the first rotation,”

“Overall, looking across the country, we are looking at minimal silage in the diet that will see us through the first rotation.”

Fertiliser 

Douglas notices that some farms spread slurry after the opening of the closed period.

For farmers that did not get any slurry out yet, he thinks sixty units by early April.

“There is no point catching up with fertiliser; we have to adjust as well. If we missed the growth in February with fertiliser, we just reduce it a little bit. Whatever it is to make up the nitrogen target on the farm.”

“On heavier farms, most of them would not have got much slurry/fertiliser out in February. On those farms, you are talking about 45 units out buy earlier April.”

“That could be half-a-bag of urea now and half-a-bag later in the month, or it might be your 2,000 gallons of slurry on some of the farm,” John concluded.

Further information

Listen to the Dairy Edge Podcast here.

Further reading

For other farming tips, click here.

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