Late spring beef tips
Cattle specialist Karen Dukelow says research by Teagasc has shown that spreading 48 units of N/acre in the spring produced extra grass at a cost of €80/t of dry matter (even at a moderate response to nitrogen).
This is far cheaper than silage costing about €150/t of DM and meal which costs around €300/t of DM.
“In a year were both silage and grass supplies are tight you cannot afford not to spread nitrogen.”
She said the decision to graze silage ground or not is farm specific.
“Where little or no ground has been grazed this spring, it will make sense to close silage ground without grazing, fertilise and close.
“Where grass is very tight or where silage ground is the only dry ground, it will make sense to graze silage ground.” “It is important to start looking ahead to the silage harvest in order to ensure the maximum yield and best quality possible. “Cutting silage from the third week of May to the start of June will ensure that there will also be an opportunity to take a second cut, thereby maximising the silage yield for the year.”
“The key to managing grazing with poor ground conditions is to be flexible. “Be prepared to think outside the norm and bring cattle in again if needs be. “Anything that gives you more options will help, such as multiple gaps in fields, strip wire, roadways, etc. “Have you thought about on/off grazing? Many of ye will say this is impossible or ‘it’ s all right for dairy farmers’, but why not bring cattle off grass if it starts a downpour while they are out?
“A few hours grazing are far better than none, and you will limit damage to the ground by taking them off while it is wet overhead.
“Some suckler farmers turn suckler cows out after the school run in the morning and bring them in again before doing the school run in the afternoon.
“There is no problem getting cows back in, as they will want to return to their calves. Every day at grass is worth €2 per animal. So, for 35 cows and 35 yearlings, it is worth €140 per day or €1,000 per week. Karen Dukelow advised to avoid spreading slurry on heavy covers of grass unless it is very watery.
“There is a risk that thick slurry will stick to the leaves and will reduce palatability for grazing. “Instead, consider applying slurry to the ground immediately after it has been grazed, so that there is time for it to have soaked in before the second rotation.”
If silage is scarce, cattle still indoors, other than finishing stock, can be restricted to 40% of their fodder requirement by supplementing with extra concentrate.
It can be difficult to weigh silage; for simplicity, it may be easier to halve the number of grabs/bales being fed, with extra meal being fed.
“Or another handy rule of thumb is a 600kg round bale would comfortably feed 20 cows with 2kg of meal. “Meal feeding compares well with buying in extra silage with the meal feeding costing 50c/day per cow and buying in silage costing €1/day.
“However, for this system to work, silage needs to be restricted and every animal needs to eat at once, so feed space is critical, allow 2ft per cow and 1ft per yearling. “Don’t forget to feed minerals, particularly important with limited and or poor quality silage.” “Ensure a good supply of fresh water.
“Build up feeding rates slowly. This may require setting up additional trough feeding space in yards. All animals should be monitored regularly for signs of ill-thrift on this system. Monitor cow condition regularly.”
Presentation of certificates in the Salesian Agricultural College, Pallaskenry, Co Limerick: IFA deputy president Richard Kennedy with Level 6 Dairy Student of the Year Gearoid Slattery, Ballina, Co Tipperary, and below, Tim Hussey, DeLaval, presenting...