August is essential for springtime planning
The weather is probably the most talked about issue in Ireland. While most families have been disgusted with this year's summer as the school holiday draws to an end, for dairy farmers it's been hard to complain.
Grass has grown reasonably well and conditions have neither been too wet nor too dry. However silage cutting has been rather chancy. Even where farmers have checked every forecast available, knowing when to go for it has been challenging. As a result, some second cuts have been either cut slightly wet or have been caught with a splash whilst wilting.
At times it has also been rather chilly and as a result soil temperatures have been fluctuating up and down having fallen from highs of 20C to lows of 15 to 16C.
Whilst grass has continued to grow, this has had some impact on growth rates. Personally I find a noticeable difference in both the rate and look of the regrowth once the soil temperature falls below 17C. This matches what a scientist once told me - that there was a substantial amount of organic nitrogen available once the soil temperature was above 17C.
Below this temperature there was a greater reliance on nitrogen fertiliser to provide the grass plant's needs, and I tend to believe this having noticed lighter green and slower regrowths at lower soil temperatures.
So if it's colder than normal, it's not a time to contemplate skimping on nitrogen fertiliser. However if the temperature rises substantially, it might lead to a flush in growth but also a rejection of pasture if they become too nitrogen rich. Once again, measuring soil temperature can be a great aid to management decisions.
August is a critical month on the grassland management calendar as it's the time when planning and preparation for spring should begin.
Essentially you should now resist trying to cling on to an ever falling milk production and avoid making decisions focusing solely on the tank. In essence, there are three core aims of autumn management: