Soil and location offer just 5-10pc grass difference

Caitriona Murphy

Farm location and soil type account for only 5-10pc of the difference in grass production on individual farms, delegates at the Irish Grassland Association conference were told.

Although heavy and wet soils are often blamed for poor grass production, grassland management has a much bigger influence over total grass production than soil type, Teagasc expert Padraig French said.

The difference between farms can be as much as 50pc, while even within farms, the difference in grass production can be as high as 60pc.

The research is backed up by the fact that only half of all dairy farmers are reseeding paddocks, and a survey of three co-ops found that only 10pc of dairy farmers are putting time into measuring grass and managing grass intensively.

Mr French insisted there was huge scope for the 250-strong crowd of dairy farmers to increase the usage of grass, reduce feed costs and increase efficiency across the farm.

A higher stocking rate of three cows per hectare on a free-draining, perennial ryegrass sward was possible to increase grass usage, Mr French claimed.

Meanwhile, Waterford farmer Tom Barron and Teagasc researcher Finola McCoy highlighted the high cost of mastitis in dairy herds.

Mr Barron estimated the cost of mastitis and high somatic cell count in his herd to be €30,000/year before he embarked on a pilot study called €uroMilk.

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The study used a team-based approach to tackling the mastitis issue on-farm, consisting of the farmer, vet, milking machine technician, co-op adviser and Teagasc adviser.

Delegates at the conference called for a national programme to tackle the issue of high somatic cell counts in herds before it becomes a barrier to international trade.

Mike Magan, chairman of Animal Health Ireland, pledged his organisation would be at the forefront in creating such a programme in the near future.

Irish Independent

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