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Wicklow Farm walk on ‘Building Grass Cover for Autumn’

On August 24th, Glanbia supplier Noel McCall hosted a grass walk on his farm in Maghermore, Co. Wicklow covering the topic of ‘Building grass cover for this autumn’.

As grass growth rates begin to decline heading into the autumn period farmers must now look towards autumn grazing and the required closing grass cover on their farm.

Attention now turns to building up sufficient grass covers for autumn. Now is really the starting point of when farmers should be extending rotation length and allowing farm cover to increase. It is important that every farmer composes an autumn grass budget for their own farm, this can allow farmers to make informed decisions on what paddocks to graze and what paddocks to hold off on. It will also allow farmers to assess how much fertiliser they need to spread over the next month to ensure adequate closing covers.

Fertiliser accounts for a large proportion of farm input costs and should only be used if necessary, so completing an autumn grass budget can allow farmers to accurately predict the quantities of fertiliser that are required.

Creating a budget is relatively simple. The starting point should be what cover you need to open at next spring. For most farmers this is between 900 and 1,000kg DM/ha on 01 February. If average growth rate over the 80 days of winter is 3kg DM/ha per day then you need to close up your farm at an average farm cover of around 700kg DM/ha in mid-November. However, some farmers on heavier type soils may not wish to have such a heavy pre-grazing cover next spring and can adapt their grassland management in autumn to suit their own system.

Current levels of grass growth are around 70kg DM/ha per day but this will vary depending on your location.

Calculate your weekly demand for grass (stocking rate x grass allowance x seven) and deduct this from weekly grass growth (projected daily growth x seven). Manipulate your demand for grass by altering stocking rate through selling culls early, drying off cows and using supplements to get to your required cover at closing.

The cheapest source of feed that you can give to cows next February is grass, and increasing the amount that you have in the diet can greatly reduce the levels of supplementation that need to be fed which will ultimately increase the profitability of your system. While it may seem early to be planning for next February, it is vital that rotation lengths are planned now, to ensure there is a high closing cover on the farm in November.

Talk your GII Farm Development Manager or Teagasc/Farm Advisor for tips on managing grass cover on your farm.

First Published 29 August 2017

Tagged with: Dairy

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