FARMER FOCUS: Grass growth a major concern

So Dairy Update would like me to explain how we utilise grass in our different farming systems. The first step, of course, is to grow plenty of it and here is where we have hit our first problem of the season. As we head into April, growth rates are barely reaching double figures on all our grazing platforms, writes Will Pritchard.

The ‘jam tomorrow’ weather we have endured for more than 12 months has meant the whole team has become astute at making instant grazing decisions based on up-to-date grass measurement. I am not normally a negative person, but as I stare at the back wall of yet another silage pit, I cannot help but consider how resilient we are.

Production wise, we are trailing last year’s record March numbers, while seeing an increase of about 30% in concentrate use to help fill the forage gap created by lack of available grazing covers.

The good news is all the pastures have been grazed cleanly in readiness for the inevitable spring flush, whenever that should happen. The quality of grazing should be excellent once the heat arrives and I am optimistic production shortfalls can be reclaimed. Autumn-calved cows are a picture of health due to their unexpected full ration of concentrate so late in their lactation. We will have to be careful to make sure we take them into the summer at the correct condition score.

The usual solution to no grass is a sprinkling of the magic white granules. There is great debate here as to whether a second application of nitrogen should be applied. Is the February application of Urea still available in the soil or has it simply volatilised? If it has, let’s hope it contributes to short-term global warming.

Will Prichard manages the family’s 1,250 cows and followers on four sites in North Pembrokeshire. A grassland and block calving enthusiast, he operates two spring and two autumn calving herds and also breeds and sells Wagyu beef

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