Maximising returns from grass

AGRISEARCH WALK RI Farm
DISCUSSION: GrassCheck pilot farmer Henry Stewart, Elizabeth Earle (AgriSearch) and Gavin Duffy (CAFRE) discussing the upcoming GrassCheck farm walk at Henry’s farm.

MAKING the most of grass this autumn to boost winter forage options will be the key discussion point at a series of upcoming AgriSearch-AFBI-CAFRE farm walks, the first of which will be held on the farm of Henry Stewart, Stewartstown, County Tyrone.

The farm hosts a herd of 220 Holstein dairy cows managed in a block calving system with 50 per cent of cows calving in autumn and 50 per cent in spring. The herd is currently achieving an average production of 8,200 litres per cow, with 2,759 litres produced from forage.

Henry places a strong emphasis on good grassland management across the 280 acre farm to ensure optimum performance from grass.

A strip grazing system is used across the farm for the two groups of milking cows, with a key focus placed on pre-grazing cover.

“I try to go into paddocks at a total cover of 3,100kg DM/ha as I find this the easiest to graze out,” said Henry.

“We regularly take big bales off the platform if covers go past our grazing target.”

The farm also uses artificial grass with the aim of improving cow flow on laneways.

Henry is one of 20 dairy farms participating in the GrassCheck project which involves weekly recording of grass growth across the grazing platform.

“At present I’m using the weekly measurements to calculate what area I can afford to take out for third cut silage,” comments Henry.

Growth on the farm is starting to see a recovery with average growth rates this week of 64.5kg DM/ha/day, considerably above the low of 22kg DM/ha/day recorded back on July 9.

“This year we haven’t had the opportunity to make any extra forage on the grazing platform so if possible, I’d like to take an extra 30 acres of grass silage to boost our winter feed supply,” Henry continues.

At the event there will be the opportunity to hear about the GrassCheck project and the 2018 season so far, the farm’s grazing management approach, and options to get the most out of grass this autumn. The event will also focus on forage budgeting for the winter months.

AgriSearch’s Elizabeth Earle commented: “Grass growth this year has been extremely variable across NI and it’s important looking to the autumn that farms are well placed to make the most of grass at the end of the season and reduce pressure on winter forage supplies.”

o In the interests of biosecurity those attending are asked to wear clean clothing not previously worn while in direct contact with their own animals. Outdoor work boots should not be worn. Protective overalls and footwear will be provided.

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