SLOW grass growth is causing concern for even the most committed early grazers, and supplementation should be considered where covers are low, says British Grassland Society consultant Carol Gibson.
"Grass growth is poorer than expected for the time of year. Cover should be higher than 1900kg DM/ha; when it is less than 1800kg DM/ha supplement cows with silage or the cheapest available feed," says Miss Gibson.
But Miss Gibson is heartened by the increase in numbers of producers turning out early this year.
"Turning out earlier is putting pressure on these farms, by reducing cover. However, most producers have managed well. It is vital to monitor cover to ensure you dont run into difficulties later."
At Greenmount College, cover is quite high at 2350kg/ha, but cows are still housed at night, says grassland technologist David Patterson. "We are experiencing lower than normal growth rates of 25-30kg DM/day due to recent wet and frosty weather.
"However, we need to keep a careful eye on growth rates. As soon as they increase to 45-50kg DM/day we must turn cows out day and night, and speed up the rotation to maintain grass quality."
High grass quality is a key objective for Sussex-based producer Christian Fox. His herd is out 24-hours-a-day, but wet weather conditions are proving a challenge.
"I am trying to graze areas that are more sheltered and better drained. But it is crucial to keep the whole unit tightly grazed otherwise grass quality suffers." *
Daily growth rates
Anglesey 40kg DM/ha
Pembrokeshire 25kg DM/ha
Sussex 32kg DM/ha
Northern Ireland 27kg DM/ha
Dorset 66kg DM/ha
Shropshire 20kg DM/ha