Scoffed at by traditionalists Zero grazing is now becoming increasing popular
Zero grazing is an increasingly popular option, especially during the unpredictable Irish spring weather
Last week's weather has done wonders for soil temperatures with grass now starting to jump out of the ground. But some areas will take a long time to dry out properly after all the rain we had in early March.
Around this time of year zero grazing machines are being used by many as both a grass management tool and a way of avoiding land damage in fields that remain susceptible to poaching.
These machines were scoffed at by traditionalists when they hit the ground proper around ten years ago. However, in the interim farmers up and down the country have bought them in numbers.
These machines tend to suit farmers with fragmented farms (avoids having to walk cows long distances) or on heavier land - particularly at times such as now, in the shoulders of the grass growing season when growth rates are not yet sufficient to meet demand. Most tend to use them at certain times of the year, but there are some farmers that zero graze year round.
Opponents of zero grazing claim it goes against the natural system of letting cattle graze outdoors, and can make cattle unfit. Some definite disadvantages of zero grazing are the added building, diesel and machinery costs, as well as the extra slurry storage requirements required. The farmer needs to ensure he has the infrastructure to support this approach.
Extra volumes of slurry will need to be spread, as well as the added daily job of actually going out to cut and collect grass. Extra machinery costs must be considered as well.
I got a chance recently to see an AB 70 Zero Grazer in action, kindly supplied by Niall O' Reilly of Zero Grazer, based in Cavan, who pioneered the system in Ireland over ten years ago.
This machine is a bit of a classic and would be a hit with dairy farmers who want a no frills unit capable of delivering grass to the 100-odd dairy herd. It cuts down to about 6cm using two drum mowers and takes a six foot wide swath. It has a 28 cubic metre capacity. The drum mowers are similar to what you would see on a hay mower, as pictured.