As calving begins to wind down and the evenings begin to stretch, magic day is indeed approaching although for the majority of us it may be 7-10 days later than normal, dependent on start of grazing date and subsequent growth rates. It is imperative that we ration out the remaining 1st rotation grass on the farm to ensure we do not begin the second grazing rotation prematurely.

Key factors to consider

  1. AFC must be 9-10 times demand by magic day. For example: If stocked at 3 lu/ha with a demand of 16kgDM/cow, this equates to an overall demand of 54kgs/ha. Multiply this by 9, target is an AFC of 500kgs/ha approx
  2. If growth rates (which are currently low at 15-18kgs/ha/day) are much lower than current demand, supplement will be necessary to extend out remaining grass
  3. Silage is lower in energy than grass and meal so eliminating silage from the diet first will be beneficial ONCE GRASS SUPPLY ALLOWS. If you are in an over-quota scenario, high levels of meal feeding is not an option – Once a day milking will be more beneficial, owing to fertility benefits

Achieving target residuals now is key to successfully setting up the grazing platform for high quality feed in subsequent rotations – especially in the second and third rounds as high quality grass will positively influence fertility performance on spring calving farms. If we do not clean out paddocks fully, growth rates and utilisation will be greatly reduced. Increased grass utilisation increases net farm profit so start the year on the right foot.

Knowledge is confidence – once we know how much grass we have, how much we need and what we must do to fill any gaps then we can be confident that our feed supply and quality is being well managed. Those that have not yet taken up grass measuring may fall into a trap of either putting in too much supplement now which would create a surplus early in the second round or not put in enough supplement now and end up in a feed deficit when they should have been reaching magic day.

Measure and assess where you are and act on the measurement information!

Cathal Mc Aleer, Cathal is a private grassland consultant working with individual farmers and facilitating discussion groups throughout Ireland.
0871602491 / 00447749531679 [email protected]