20 September 1996

Production could be almost doubled

BEEF production from grass could be almost doubled by better management.

So said Eddie ORiordan, senior research officer at Grange Research Centre in County Meath. "Grassland management is all too often seen as a spectator sport on drystock farms."

Average carcass production was 553kg/ha, but there was scope to increase that to almost 1000kg/ha grass, said Dr ORiordan.

"Increasing grass production, the proportion consumed by grazing rather than conserving, and impr-oving quality and efficiency of use will radically increase grass potential."

Early turnout and late removal from grass, supplemented by concentrates, would increase grass use.

Recent work at Grange had shown that in a planned grazing system, cattle could be turned out very early on grass intended for silage, gaining an extra 10-15kg a head liveweight gain as a consequence.

"In autumn, overstocking can depress liveweight gain – most pastures can support only 1200-1400kg/ha liveweight from October onwards. For higher stocking rates, a carryover of pasture is necessary, and rotational grazing makes this much more practical."

Producers should also be prepared to use improved grass varieties – currently only 3% of grass was reseeded in Ireland each year. "A reseeded sward is about two weeks earlier in spring than an old sward, and is productive for longer in the autumn."