Utilise winter’s grass bounty

Donal Ryan & Pat Fitzgerald register milk suppliers at a Tipperary Co-op/Teagasc dairy seminar in Tipperary. Picture: O'Gorman Photography.

Make an effort to utilise grass on farms this spring, and to minimise supplementation levels, is the Teagasc Grass 10 advice to farmers.

After good growth over the winter, the grass supply is plentiful on farms that were closed off properly last autumn.

The first steps are to measure an opening cover to assess the grass supply, and to identify dry areas to graze in wet weather.

What grazing infrastructure is needed to achieve more days at grass this spring?

A strip wire and a back-fence to meet residuals of 3.5-4 cm, and to avoid poaching.

Multiple entry/exit points into paddocks, to avoid excessive damage at gaps.

Water troughs that allow for strip grazing to occur (water troughs in the middle of fields, or portable water troughs).

On dairy farms, a good roadway network is also essential.

The Grass10 checklist for grazing is:

Two temporary reels (one strip wire, one back fence) for each group of stock.

Temporary posts for hanging temporary fences.

Power in the fence to keep stock on the allocated area.

Water troughs placed in the middle of paddocks for strip grazing.

Access points: make sure there are enough handles and gaps to avoid walking over grazed ground.

Measurements of opening covers to identify the areas of the farm to graze first.

How does on/off grazing work for dairy cows?

The idea is to get cows out to grass with an appetite so that they graze efficiently and are taken off pasture once they’ve had their fill of grass.

Flexibility is key for this to work.

The Grass10 suggestion for dairy on-off grazing this spring is to hold cows in the yard or indoors until 11am, after a 7–9am milking time, letting them out for grazing from 11am to 1.30pm, then holding them in the yard or indoors until the 2-4pm milking time.

After a further 4-6.30pm grazing, cows could be brought in at 6.30pm.

Meanwhile, the demand for winter feed can be reduced by turning out yearling heifers to out-farms early this spring (target February 1).

Lighter animals should be targeted for early turnout.

Early slurry and urea help to build the grass supply on farms where fodder supplies are low.

Source silage or alternative feeds to supplement and extend silage reserves. Continue to extend where silage reserves are short, using straw, concentrates etc. Continue to feed young stock concentrates, to save silage.

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