Get­ting the best feed into the an­i­mals’ mouths

Irish Examiner - Farming - - GENERAL FARMING -

It’s the start of a new year for g r a s s , an d i t ne ed s a go od break­fast, of early ni­tro­gen ( N) in the shape of urea or slurry.

When mak­ing out a fer­tiliser/slurry plan, slurry needs to be pri­ori­tised for low phos­pho­rus (P) and potas­sium (K) ground with low cov­ers. As soon as con­di­tions al­low, spread 2,500 gal­lons of slurry o n c o ve r s no t p l a n n e d fo r gr az in g u n t i l Ma rc h , a n d spread half a bag of urea on the re­main­ing ground. Urea is also more sta­ble in soil than CAN in the early spring pe­riod.

N ap p l ie d i n th e fo r m of urea has the abil­ity to ‘cling’ to the soil.

Ap­ply­ing early N fer­tiliser in spring (weather per­mit­ting) will not only grow more grass, but helps the re­cov­ery of grass af­ter graz­ing, so there will be more grass avail­able for the next round of graz­ing also. In March, spread 2,500 gal­lons of slurry/acre and spread h a l f a b a g o f ure a / a c re on re­main­ing ground. Spread 23-40 units of N/acre on the re­main­der.

Yo u c a n s w i t c h t o c o mpound in March, where fields are low in P and K, and where y o u ha ve ve r y go od c o n d itions.

Across a num­ber of tri­als, and from on- farm data, the av­er­age re­sponse to N in the spring is 10kg of grass dry mat­ter (DM) for ev­ery 1kg of N spread.

A sin­gle kilo­gram of grass is worth 16c in the spring, and at cur rent prices, 1kg of N is cost­ing 80c. This is a 2:1 re­turn on money spent. How­ever, for fer tiliser to w o r k , it f i r s t n e e d s t o b e or­dered, de­liv­ered and spread on the pad­docks.

There is zero re­sponse to N left in the bag.

Grass for break­fast, din­ner, tea and sup­per

So grass is grow­ing, the next thing is to get the best feed avail­able on your farm into an­i­mals’ mouths.

You need the first ro­ta­tion to last un­til growth equals de­mand on your fa rm, and you need to en­sure you get all t h e f a rm g r a z e d ( i n c l u d e silage ground, if graz­ing it) in the first ro­ta­tion.

T h e b i gg es t ch a l l e n g e is get­ting it all grazed, as weather and ground con­di­tions can be chal­leng­ing in the spring.

M a ke ou t a s i mp le p la n , with turnout date and end of first ro­ta­tion date.

For ex­am­ple, a dry farm in the south with a turnout of Fe­bru­ary 12 would have 50 days graz­ing, with the se­cond ro­ta­tion start­ing on April 3. On 100 acres, this means graz­ing two acres a day. This plan can be tweaked as the spring pro­gresses. A spring ro­ta­tion plan­ner can be gen­er­ated by Pas­tureBase Ire­land.

It is free to ac­cess on the https://pas­turebase.tea­gasc.ie web­site.

Ben­e­fits of a grass diet

Ev­ery blade of grass into an an­i­mal’s mouth in the spring is a sav­ing on costly in­door feed, and will have liveweight ben­e­fits.

So, what we are aim­ing to do i s to m ak e th e m o s t ou t o f chal­leng­ing con­di­tions. Ev­ery day at grass is worth €2/live­stock unit (LU).

F o r ex am p l e , if 60 ex tr a days at grass are cap­tured for 50LU, then it is worth € 6,000. How­ever, to cap­ture days at g r a s s in we t we a t h e r , yo u need to have the right land, the right cover, the right pad­dock, the right an­i­mal and the right mind!

Where pos­si­ble, move stock to drier parts of the farm. Lower cov­ers are eas­ier to graze in the wet and, as they a r e gr ee n t o th e b a s e , a r e faster to re­cover. Ide­ally, the pad­dock should be square in shape.

An ir reg­u­lar- shaped pad­dock will lead to “the race­course ef fect”, where stock will walk up and down the perime­ter fence.

If you know that a spell of p r o l o n g e d we t w e a t h e r is com­ing, hold off on turn­ing o u t mo re s to c k , u n t il th e weather set­tles.

Cat­tle that are used to graz­ing will be more set­tled. If cat­tle are very un­set­tled, do not be afraid to re­house them. Trial work has shown that cat­tle who get turned out early and are then re­housed are still heav­ier than an­i­mals that are turned out late.

Pic­tures: Dy­lan Vaughan

At the re­cent Tea­gasc Na­tional Tillage Con­fer­ence in Kilkenny, from left, John Met­calfe, Tul­low, Co Car­low; Mick McBen­nett, New­cas­tle, Co Dublin; and Jim O’Re­gan, Kin­sale, Co Cork. Be­low, Paddy Har­ring­ton, Mi­nane Bridge, Co Cork; Sea­mus Kear­ney, Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture; and Frank Hayes, Dairy­gold.

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