Farm Ireland

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Grazing 2017: Record grass yields in the east but the west is hammered

Claire McCormack

Grass growth in 2016 has matched last year’s record levels in parts of the south and east, but growth in the west took a hammering as a result of the heavy rainfall from May to September.

Figures from Teagasc’s PastureBase show that growth up to the middle of November was in line with 2015 at Curtin’s Farm in Fermoy at 15.5t/ha.

However, Teagasc centres to the west of this site all recorded sizeable reductions in overall grass output this year.

At the Shinagh farm near Bandon the total dry matter output fell from 15.5t/ha in 2015 to 14.9t/ha this year. A drop of 4pc.

At Ballyhaise in Cavan grass output was back 7pc on 2015, falling from 12.8t/ha to 11.9t/ha.

Meanwhile in Athenry, grass output fell by 7pc to 14t/ha, compared to 15.1t/ha in 2015.In contrast, grass output at the Greenfield Farm in Kilkenny was up 9pc, increasing from 13.3t/ha to 14.5t/ha.

PastureBase co-ordinator Micheál O’Leary said the graph of grass growth through the year (see graph, right) showed the impact of the persistent cold weather through the spring.

pasture base.PNG

However, he pointed out that there was a surge in growth in May to 100kg/DM/day, followed by two more noticeable spikes in July and September.

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“Growth rates at Curtin’s Farm in the first week of October hit 49-50kgDM/ha/day, which was 20pc up on normal,” O’Leary pointed out.


And while grass output in the west was back by 1-1.5t/ha due to the heavy rains this summer, there was drought in some parts of the east and southeast.

The excellent back-end has been the saving of the year for many farmers on the western seaboard.

Richard Starrett from Lifford in Co Donegal grew nearly 2t/ha more grass since July but poor grazing conditions meant that he still  housed cows by night during September and was supplementing their feed with bales of silage and he doubled their meal to 4kg a day.

However, he was able to get the herd out by day and night through much of October because of the improved weather and grazing conditions. This was despite grass growth being up this year from 13.5t/ha to 12.8t/ha.

The fall in growth was compounded by a serious drop in the dry matter content of the grass, which fell to 10pc in September.

The extent to which grass growth performance was weather dependent was highlighted by the figures from Noel O’Toole’s farm between Portumna and Loughrea in east Galway.

He admitted that his farm missed the worst of what he termed the “big spills” and he managed to hold growth at around last year’s levels of 16t/ha.

Spring growth in the west was back around 40pc in some areas but O’Toole said the “burst of growth in May "blew everything out of the water.”

The last eight weeks had also been excellent," he added.

Online Editors