Grassland management: Turning attentions back to building covers

The last few weeks, with the poor weather conditions, farmers have been forced to pick and choose paddocks to graze – as ground conditions became tricky.

The task of building covers went fully on the backburner, as attentions turned to ensuring as much grass was going into cows’ diets and to limit the amount of bales that had to be opened; although on some farms this was unavoidable.

However, as grass continues to grow well and the fact that the deadline for the spreading of chemical fertiliser edges closer, attentions should turn back to building grass covers – in order to extend the grazing season and to leave the grazing platform with a sufficient cover of grass, at housing, for grazing the following spring.
In terms of targets, by the end of August, farms stocked at the 2.5 cows/ha should have built up an average farm cover (AFC) of 750kg DM/ha, according to Teagasc.

While farms stocked at 3.0 cows/ha and 3.5 cows/ha should have had an AFC – at the end of August – of 990kg DM/ha and 980kg DM/ha respectively.

If some farms are struggling to build covers, especially those on heavier soils that have received a large amount of rainfall over the last few weeks, a few options to consider – in order to build grass – are listed (below).

Options to reduce the demand:

Increase supplementation through the introduction of concentrates and/or good-quality silage;
Removal of under-performing/empty/lame cows from the milking platform;
Bring zero-grazed grass from an outside block back home to feed.
If some farms are ahead of target – which more than likely are lower stocked farms – the weather over the coming days looks to be unsettled, but there looks like there could be chances to take out paddocks if it is necessary.

Therefore, it is vital for farmers in this scenario to act promptly and identify paddocks which can be taken out for silage, while growth rates are still high. Measuring grass weekly will help you know how much grass you have and how much grass you need to have.