Six out of 10 suppliers expect dry spell to impact on milk supply
Farmers are being urged to take prompt action to assess and manage farm grass covers due to a reduction in growth.
Surveys carried out by Glanbia Ireland’s Technical Advisory team over the past fortnight of almost 150 suppliers, representing the full milk pool across the catchment area, found grass growth has been impacted.
The surveys found:
- Around 82% expect grass growth and 60% expect milk supply to be impacted by soil moisture deficits over the coming weeks;
- Around 14% of farms surveyed are feeding silage as a buffer feed. It is likely this has continued to increase due to rapidly changing growth conditions on some farms;
- Grass growth recorded over the past week ranged from 20-85 kg DM/ha (average 52 kg DM/ha).
- A small percentage of farms in Munster surveyed are feeding additional forage supplements, a significantly larger percentage of buffer feeding is happening in Leinster.
Glanbia Ireland’s team of technical advisers are working to aid farmers in making strategic interventions to manage the level of grass cover ahead of cows and rotation lengths.
In most of the country, soil moisture deficits currently range from 40 to 70mm for all soil-types, according to figures from Met Eireann. With little rainfall forecast for the coming week, deficits are likely to increase further.
Figures from Teagasc’s PastureBase Ireland data shows a range of average growth in counties across the eastern region of 45-68 kg DM/ha/day. Leinster has an average growth rate over the past seven days of 49 kg DM/ha/day, approximately 18.5% behind average growth rates achieved in Munster.
Seán Molloy, Glanbia Ireland’s Chief Agribusiness Growth Officer, explained: “It is important that suppliers act early to assess and quantify current grass demand on farm. Proactive steps now will help cope with weather-related grass growth setbacks as it can drive costs on farms and reduce milk production in herds.”
In a 100 cow herd, currently yielding 26 litres/day, the difference between a decline of 3% per week and 2.5% per week would be a loss of >€7,000 between now and the end of lactation at current milk price.
Glanbia Ireland’s technical team are advising farmers that there are a number of proactive steps that can be taken to protect milk yield and help safeguard grass growth.
Farmers are being urged to extend rotation length to 24-25 days, maintain a minimum farm cover of 500kg DM/ha, walk the farm more regularly to monitor growth and make good timely weather-based decisions.
Grassland management and nutrition
- Grass demand is driven predominantly by stocking rates. Demand should match growth on the platform. If demand exceeds growth, the deficit will grow. To decrease demand:
- Bring back in uncut silage ground into the rotation if cover is <2500kg DM/ha. Strip-graze to achieve good utilisation
- Prioritise lactating cows over dry stock and young stock as alternative diets can be used.
- Maintain post grazing residuals of 4 cm. Over grazing will impede recovery especially in dry conditions.
- Maintain fertiliser N applications while farm is still green.
- Where slurry is not applied or delayed it is important to use P & K with nitrogen.
- Early intervention and strategic use of concentrate is advisable to retain the integrity and structure of the normal grazing rotation.
- When available grass falls below 12 Kgs DM/cow/day there is a requirement to introduce incremental forage in conjunction with concentrates/straights.
- When grass availability falls to 60% or less of dry matter intake, a good source of long fibre is critical to sustain milk solids and rumen function. The most ideal product for this purpose is Alfalfa. A limited quantity of Alfalfa is available and farmers that need the product should engage with their Glanbia representative as early as possible.
- In severe deficit situations consider confining dry stock and using a combination of silage, concentrates/straight to preserve grass for high priority stock.
Further information can be found in the Farm Management section or directly contact your local Glanbia representative, who will offer in-depth technical advice on appropriate solutions, on an individual farm basis.
First Published 27 May 2020