Wet conditions causing grazing problems
The unsettled weather conditions have challenged many farmers over the last few months, including the Derrypatrick herd at Grange. From May 14, cows and calves were grazing the silage area (closed since April 10).
With the breeding season under way, it was essential that cows and calves remained at pasture. On May 14, the yearling heifers and bulls were housed due to a combination of inadequate grass supply and very poor grazing conditions.
Until then, average daily gain at pasture was 1.05kg and 1.43kg for heifers and bulls respectively (Table 1). Grass growth during April and May (<30 kg DM/ha/day) equalled the lowest recorded since regular measurements began at Grange about 20 years ago.
Th rate is insufficient for the Derrypatrick unit, which requires around 70kg DM/ha/ day to meet feed demand.
Pasture covers on a notable portion of the silage area were also quite low (1,700kg DM/ha), despite being closed for over a month. Wet soil conditions on a lot of the silage meant post-grazing heights were raised and cows and calves were moved through paddocks at a quicker rate to prevent damage to pasture.
In total, approximately 30pc of our silage area was grazed before returning to the grazing platform. In late May, once weather and ground conditions improved, post-grazing heights of 4.5cm were reached with relative ease.
Since the end of May, sporadic downpours coupled with wet soil conditions have required close monitoring to prevent any heavy damage to pasture. We grew grass at approximately 80kg DM/ha/day last week. However, it is proving difficult to maintain post-grazing residuals at 4.5cm as a result of variable weather conditions.
The other main problem facing the herd is maintaining grass quality. The feed supply will ultimately determine any silage removal (baled silage). However, any paddocks showing distinct signs of heading will be made a priority for this treatment.