Dairy: Grass shortage looms as rain takes its toll
The spring of 2016 continues to be a major challenge. The rain continues to fall relentlessly and now at the start of April there have only been 10 dry days so far this year to balance the 80 wet ones we have endured.
Our grass situation has changed dramatically since early February when there was an absolute feast of grass available for the cows to the present where it is very scarce.
Our farm cover has now dropped to 340kg/DM/ha from a massive opening cover of 1090 kg/DM/ha. While we have definitely wasted some grass due to the wet weather and poor ground conditions, the real problem is the lack of growth due to cold saturated ground.
While there is a good green colour on the farm now most of the ground has been heavily marked during the first rotation and growth last week came in at only 13kg/DM/ha.
This is massively short of our current demand of 50kg/DM/ha per day so we are supplementing with silage and 4kg of a 14pc nut at present. These actions bring our demand down to 29 kg/DM/ha daily and the hope is that the farm will exceed that figure this week coming and allow us to remove the silage and reduce the concentrate usage.
The intended 70 units of nitrogen has been applied so now the missing ingredient is heat.
We started our second rotation by night on March 29 and by day on April 4. This is a few days earlier than I am happy with so we will buffer with silage at milking time. Covers on the first paddocks grazed are too low at 850kg/DM/ha but we are hopeful the promised rise in temperatures will arrive and boost growth.
The herd are under pressure because they have now endured six weeks of on/off grazing and it is taking its toll on body condition as well as lameness due to wet ground and standing on concrete. There are 10 cows on OAD at present to look after them. Currently the herd are milking 22.5l at 4.80pc fat and 3.31pc protein which is 1.88kg/MS per cow. This is low protein percentage for our herd and reflects the amount of silage in the diet.