Get early grazing decisions right

Due to the recent wet spell, ground conditions have deteriorated.

The coming week is forecast to have much less rain but to get a lot colder.

A dry spell is needed to get slurry and fertiliser out.

For many, grazing is still a bit away due to the ground conditions. Ground is in good condition on most farms, as no damage was done last autumn, but the surface is now quite wet and would damage easily.

Don’t travel ground or turn animals out if you will do excessive damage.

Remember that any damage that you do at this time of year is likely to reduce overall grass yield for the year.

Suckler turnout

Some suckler herdowners are anxious to turn out cows with young calves, for health reasons. The recent mild weather has resulted in quite a lot of calves being hit with scour.

Cryptosporidium in particular, has been raising its ugly head around the country.

Obviously, turning young calves out early can be a risk if it gets very cold, so make sure that there is good shelter in the fields where you put them for the first few nights.

Grazing management

If you are lucky enough to be out grazing already, it is important to manage the swards carefully.

The better you graze out paddocks in the first rotation, the better subsequent grass quality will be. Don’t rule out using a strip wire in the first rotation to help reduce damage and to ensure paddocks are grazed out effectively.

On-off grazing is also worth considering. In by night and out by day will be a great introduction to grazing for younger animals.

Early season performance

When turning stock out early, you need to consider animal performance.

Try not to turn out cattle unless sufficient grass is available for them to maintain target performance. It is worth noting that first rotation grass quality is not very high. It will be low in energy compared to later rotations of grass.

Don’t just turn out animals because you are afraid of running out of silage. If you are worried about silage stocks, consider adjusting your diets with the inclusion of straw and concentrates.

Silage is also available, but make sure you have sourced quality material before you decide to buy.

Believe it or not, silage is getting scarce in some parts of the country.


A question of taste: Katie Kim

Reflections via Alzheimer’s: Ian Maleney writes essays on rural life and his grandfather’s battle with illness

Putting a twist in the tale: Author Jeffery Deaver on life as a renowned thriller writer

Learning Points: What to do when it turns out your child is the bully

More From The Irish Examiner