Reward for proactive grazing management

Andrew Dale and Elizabeth Earle (AgriSearch)
Andrew Dale and Elizabeth Earle (AgriSearch)

Making the most of grass on a heavy farm will be the key topic of discussion at the upcoming AgriSearch farm walk at the farm of Andrew Dale near Limavady, on August 21 at 10.30 am. Andrew, who farms in partnership with his father, John, manages an autumn-winter herd of 110 Fleckvieh cows.

This year the farm is reaping the rewards of good growing conditions across the 70 hectare platform. To date grass production has been just under 9 tonne DM/Ha. “Despite the late Spring, 2018 so far has been an exceptional grass growing year for us, with growth being in excess of 100 kg DM/Ha/Day on a number of weeks since early May. This means we are aiming to take our third cut one month earlier than last year. This is a stark contrast to last year which meant we were housed from mid-August,” comments Andrew.

Grazing for the farm is limited to a 15 hectare block for the milking herd and some young stock. To supplement this and maximise grass in the diet of his dairy cows, Andrew zero-grazes a second block of 16 hectares which he feeds to cows during milking.

Andrew comments: “Zero-grazing gives us more flexibility to bring in additional land into our platform and gives us more options when weather and ground conditions are challenging.”

Andrew is part of the AgriSearch-AFBI GrassCheck project which involves weekly grass monitoring on farm. This data is used to help meet target pre- and post-grazing covers and manage surpluses on the grazing platform. Currently the grazing platform is made up of seven fields split into 13 paddocks.

An underpass has helped improve access to pasture and allowed Andrew to restructure his grazing.

Andrew comments: “Before the underpass we had distinct night and day grazing blocks. This meant it took a long time to graze out individual fields. Since the underpass was installed we have managed to sub-divide areas into smaller blocks and graze one field continually until its complete.” Finishing out paddocks quicker is helping Andrew protect regrowth which he believes is boosting grass growth on the farm.