Grass growth 'phenomenal' but cold snap is on the way
Farmers have reaped the rewards of phenomenal early grass this January, with livestock back out on paddocks across much of the country and silage even being cut in some areas.
However, the mild spell is due to come to a halt this week, with Met Eireann warning of a serious cold snap moving down from the north tomorrow.
Exceptional grass growth has been reported right around the country, with high air and ground temperatures combining to drive on pasture covers.
Teagasc's PastureBase service reported average growth rates of 4-7kg/ha/day this week, but growth rates of 10-14kg/ha/day were recorded on farms from Kilkenny to Galway.
George Ramsbottom of Teagasc said the Greenfields farm in Kilkenny was averaging 10kg/ha/day, while Galway-based dairy farmer Henry Walsh said growth rates in the west varied from 7kg/ha/day to 14/kg/ha/day.
As a consequence serious covers have built up on farms. Mr Ramsbottom pointed out that growth rates of 1-2kg/ha/day would be normal for December-January, giving an accumulated growth for the period of 50-70kg.
However, accumulated growth of 300-500kg has pushed covers to a level where farmers have been able to leave out stock.
"Farmers who are aiming to have a third of the grazing platform grazed by the end of February will have to let cows out full-time if these conditions hold up," Mr Ramsbottom said.
He said covers were exceptional for this time of the year and were matched by the dry underfoot conditions.
"Last summer's dry spell appears to have dried out places, and a good deal of nitrogen that was in the ground because of the late spreading of slurry and fertiliser is helping grass growth," Mr Ramsbottom explained.
"The old adage that 'January grass is never grazed' has certainly been proven wrong this year," he added.
Henry Walsh said covers on his Oranmore, Co Galway farm had topped 1,500kg and all of the replacement heifers and some of the cows were out on "superb quality grass".
Describing the weather as "phenomenal", Mr Walsh said the early grass and good ground conditions were delivering an timely bonus for livestock farmers.
Teagasc advisor Tom Coll agreed.
He said farmers in the northwest were taking advantage of the excellent grazing conditions and mild weather to get stock out of houses.
Mr Coll, who runs a heifer contract rearing group in the Sligo-Leitrim area, said some farmers already had heifers out grazing covers.
"It's been glorious for sheep farmers as well," he said.
Meanwhile, as last week's picture in the Farming Independent from Shallee, outside Nenagh confirmed, some farmers have taken advantage of the fine weather to get some January silage cut.
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