BGS winner making the most of spring grass

Colin Boggs assessing the grazing area for his herd
Colin Boggs assessing the grazing area for his herd

The Ulster Grassland Society caught up with Colin Boggs, British Grassland Society (BGS) Grassland Farmer of 2015, to find out how he is managing the turnout of his dairy herd in Banbridge.

What have been the main issues this month?

The herd has been housed full time since mid November so there has been plenty of grass carried over to allow early grazing. But like all other farms we had a really wet winter and it is only recently that soil conditions have improved enough to allow the cows out to graze. They initially went out for a few hours on 13th March and are now out full-time since 20th March. It has been interesting to see that swards reseeded in the autumn have responded the best this spring – an investment that is paying off.

How did you manage slurry and fertiliser applications?

As there was sufficient grass carried over the winter, no slurry or fertiliser was applied to the swards before grazing. Each paddock is currently getting watery slurry plus 1 bag/acre of straight N after grazing. This will be kept under review depending on weather conditions.

What is herd performance at the moment?

A total of 95 cows have calved since late January with a further 20 still to calve. Production is 28 l/cow/day with components of 4.94% Butterfat and 3.62% Protein, which works out at 2.39 kgs of Milk Solids per day. This milk quality added an extra 4ppl to my milk cheque this month which really helps cashflow.

How are you managing grazing?

The herd is currently grazing swards of 2500 kgDM/ha, so they’re not entering heavy covers and are grazing them out well - down to approximately 1600 kgDM/ha.

They are being supplemented with approx 7.5 kg/cow of wholecrop at the moment. Concentrates have been reduced to 2.5 – 3 kg/cow and the protein content has been lowered to 18% to balance the higher protein in grazed grass.

What are your future plans for the spring

The first rotation should be finished by 20th April and then pre mowing will start in the second rotation. I’ve done this in recent years and found it really helps maintain high quality, clean swards. My aim this spring is to make the most of grass as higher feeding costs cannot be justified in my system at current low milk prices.