On a recent Teagasc webinar, Donal Patton, a dairy research technologist, based in Teagasc Ballyhaise, outlined the practicalities of spring grazing.

In the webinar, Donal outlined the steps to approach spring grazing and how to make it work for you.

Donal stated: ''The first rotation should last 60 days and be broken into three sections to ensure that the cows are fed and that targets are reached.

''In the first 20 days, cows that are calved should be turned out to grass where possible. Once you have an opening cover for the farm grass, walking is not important at this stage.

A minimal amount of silage should be fed, with the main aim being to get area grazed.

''You should aim for a second grazing each day, without this second grazing reaching your grazing targets will not be possible.''

Donal noted that it is important to remember that  you are dealing with freshly calved cows so good management is important during the transition period.

'The second third, will last from day 20-40. Donal says this is when you should start more regular measuring, once a week if you can.

You should focus more on the budget: Are you ahead or behind where you should be.

Donal suggests that if the budget needs to be stretched that this is the right time to feed silage, rather than running out of grass and then feeding silage.

''The final third, is from day 40-60. The cows' diet should consist of just grass and meal at this stage. Cows should be heading into their second rotation in good condition, heading towards maximum production.''


1. Feed the cow

Donal stated: ''Grazing is not just about reducing feed cost, increasing the percentage of grass in the cows' diet-improves dietary energy, protein and intake potential.

When possible, the cows' diet should consist of some grass everyday. The decision should be when to bring them in, rather then do I put them out.

2. Minimise poaching

Donal said: ''The first thing is not to panic on the first day, if cows cause some damage.

''Be flexible with your grazing plan, have paddocks selected that you can go to on dry days and likewise have paddocks selected that can be grazed on wet days.

Use on-off grazing as it is an excellent tool to get areas grazed and fed to cows without causing damage to the ground.

''Allocate 12-hour breaks, avoid grazing the same area more than once. This is why having good farm infrastructure is important, with paddocks having multiply enters.

''If the weather turns and conditions are difficult, make the area smaller rather than bigger and pull cows off quicker.''

3. Achieve residuals

Getting this right sets up following rotations, getting it wrong will suppress production - targets are targets for a reason.

Turn cows out onto paddocks with a cover of no more than 1,000kg DM/ha, paddocks that are green and have no death material at the base of the sward.

Once you get the first group into a good routine of grazing paddocks out well, it makes it easier to train cows that are added to the group.

Donal recommends that if you are allocating based off kg per herd per day to over allocate once a week, if the cows clean it off well continue to increase the allocated area until they don't achieve residuals.

Its a way to test yourself and ensure that cows are not being put under pressure too early in their lactation.