Grass shortage is continuing to create challenging environment

The weather continues to be a major factor in stock management.

Despite the fact that we are half way through May for some grazing conditions are very difficult. Grass supplies remain tight around the country and growth rates are still below seasonal norms. As I mentioned a number of weeks back, it is very obvious which fields need lime, P & K or should soon be taken out for reseeding. Don’t ignore these signals as it is costing you money in extra nitrogen to grow grass inefficiently and in meal to replace grass that won’t grow.

Even though it may not seem likely, it is pretty certain that when temperatures do rise and growth improves many will quickly have a grass surplus. This will create its own difficulties, but given the last 6 weeks we have had it will be a quality problem for most.

Farms that were forced to re-house cattle recently are now starting to see grass covers increasing. If stock are still indoors don’t delay returning them to grass. Have a walk around your farm and assess grass availability.

As mentioned a few weeks ago, once growth, land conditions and weather conditions have improved a good rule of thumb is to return stock to grass when you have 10 days grazing ahead of you again.

This will obviously differ from farm to farm depending on land type, soil fertility and recent re-seeding policy.

Grazing Silage Ground?

Many of the calls I have received from clients over the past few weeks have been about grass shortages and whether they should consider grazing silage ground. There are no hard and fast rules on this but there are many factors to be considered.

* Units of nitrogen applied

* Stock you want to graze the silage ground with

* What other feeds arecurrently available

Cows or heifers that are recently in calf or are in the middle of the breeding season where possible should not graze silage ground due to the high nitrogen levels. With poorer growth recently nitrogen levels may be even higher than normal in swards.

Feeding management when you are still short on grass

For many ground conditions are ok but grass supplies are low so it is necessary to feed some silage or meal to slow down the rotation.

Spring calved suckler cows with calves require approximately 16 Kg of dry matter from grass per day. Do the sums and supplement according to requirements. In most cases good quality silage will suffice to bridge the gap. Meal may be necessary where silage is not up to scratch.

The introduction of early creep feeding (forward creeping grass or meal feeding) will also help to stretch grass supplies and can be eliminated gradually again once grass supply is sufficient.

* Remember that you now want to get these cows back in calf and improving their energy status during this period will improve fertility status in the herd. Don’t forget Tetany defence when sucklers return to grass.

* Dry sucklers should be given access to forage such as, straw, hay or silage when on a bare paddock. Don’t forget to supply a dry cow mineral.

* Bulls that are destined for heavy meal or ad-lib feeding for slaughter this autumn should now be introduced to meal even if grass is not in short supply. These bulls need to be approx 500 Kg live weight before they are put indoors for their finishing period.

* Resist the temptation to leave stock have access to larger areas of land as they will have a preference for re-growth. This will depress growth hugely on this area of land, reducing overall grass supply.


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