BY ANTHONY O’CONNOR
GRASS growth rates have increased rapidly across the country over the past fortnight and have started to exceed demand on most farms.
This is the peak of the growing season, so it is important to grow as much grass as you can, while using it efficiently. The aim is to have 10 to 14 days’ supply of grass ahead of stock. All fields / paddocks should be walked at least once a week to check sward height and quality.
Grazing height – graze paddocks/fields down to 4cm, this will ensure a leafy green sward later in the season. Apply a bag of CAN per acre or a compound fertiliser to each field when grazed out.
Rotational Grazing – to ensure efficient grass utilisation and future supply, consider dividing up large fields into paddocks using temporary electric fences and installing extra water troughs. Practise rotational grazing in the months ahead.
Extra bales – if there is surplus grass (more than 10cm high), then these fields should be closed and cut as extra high-quality baled silage. Alternatively, sections of fields with heavy grass colours could be fenced off temporarily using electrified white fencing line or tape (reels). Bales from these areas will help reduce acreage needed for second cut silage, or there may be no need to take second cut at all.
Silage ground – make as much silage as possible at first cut. Aim to maximise stocking rate on the grazing area during June. This makes as large an area as possible available for first-cut silage and takes advantage of the very high response to N fertiliser during June.
Silage cutting date – where 100 units of N are applied, the crop will require at least seven weeks’ growth before mowing. Excess N in mown grass will inhibit silage preservation. A growing silage crop uses up approximately two units of N per acre per day in good growing conditions. Therefore, ensure that 50 days are left between Nitrogen application and cutting date to allow full N utilisation by the growing crop. High Nitrogen in the grass and low sugars will lead to poor preservation of your crop. You can get your grass tested for nitrates and sugars at your local Teagasc office.
Fodder budget – complete a fodder budget to determine if you require additional silage based on first cut yield. Balance quality and quantity to suit your farm circumstances.