DAERA Notes: Dairying

Dont hesitate to get cows out grazing grass that comes to the ankle of your boot when ground conditions allow
Dont hesitate to get cows out grazing grass that comes to the ankle of your boot when ground conditions allow

Farm SAFE: Think safety on the farm. As many of you are mixing and spreading slurry at this time be aware of the danger from slurry gases.

Getting the most from grass

As grass is the cheapest feed, getting cows out to graze must be your priority. Walk the farm and see how much grass you have. You will have more than you think! Turn cows out as soon as ground conditions allow.

At turnout don’t be afraid to graze cows on a grass cover of 2500kg dry matter per hectare (the ankle of your boot). Grass should be grazed down to 1500kg dry matter per hectare (the heel of your boot). Cows should go out with an edge to their appetite and should be grazed initially for two to three hours, with a target of 5kg grass dry matter intake. A grazing group of 60 cows will require 300kg of grass dry matter. Increase grazing time up to half days over a period of a week to ten days.

Aim for an initial grazing rotation between 25 and 30 days to allow the first grazing cycle to be completed before grass covers get too heavy. A surge in growth could mean by the time you reach the end of the first grazing cycle covers are too heavy for cows to graze out cleanly. This makes it more difficult to maintain grass quality throughout the grazing season. Aim to have your grazing rotation fully established by the third week in April.

Improving milk from forage

Although milk prices have been good for some time, improving milk from forage is still key to reducing costs. As March grass, in most cases, has a higher energy value than the silage cows have been fed getting cows grazing is the simplest way to improve milk from forage. Full March grazing has the potential to produce 20 litres of milk. Practically this requires you to increase the M+ in the parlour computer feed settings by 3 to 4kg of milk at turnout. A few hours grazing after morning milking will save about 1.5kg concentrates per cow daily, replacing over half a tonne of concentrate a week for 50 cows. Continue to adjust the M+ in the parlour computer feed settings as cows move to full time grazing. In addition to the immediate savings in concentrate costs there should be improvements in milk protein and yield.

March jobs checklist

Ensure slurry for silage ground is spread by early March. Do not spread slurry on waterlogged, frozen or snow covered ground, when raining heavily or when heavy rain is forecast within the next 48 hours or where the ground has a slope of 20% or more.

Consider fertiliser needs based on soil analysis results, crop requirement and slurry/manure applications.

Complete any maintenance on cow tracks and paddock fencing in preparation for the grazing season.

Change time clocks at the end of the month when the hour changes.