For many years the value of grass has been highlighted as a critical factor in the overall profitability of grassland farms. Ireland’s climate is ideal to maximise grass growth. Grass is by far the cheapest feed available and for this reason, great care is required in the management of the crop to optimise the balance between supply and demand, as well as the nutrition provided to maximise total grass yield during the season. Below we provide helpful tips on how to attain the best performance from your sward this spring.
Prepare for turn out
Due to a mild winter, grass growth averaged over 5kg/day, opening covers are high on many farms and, as a result, farmers are aiming to get stock back out to grass, once ground conditions allow. It is recommended to walk your farm to identify the quantity of grass available. Prioritise drier fields with strong covers for early grazing.
It is important to be flexible with paddock grazing; if required, implement on/off grazing, strip grazing or back fencing. It is advisable to graze lower covers in wet weather and when conditions are more appropriate, graze heavier covers.
Regular grass measuring is considered best practice, as it can be more accurate than visual inspection and can assist in calculating a grass budget. Farmers doing grass measurements will aim to have approximately 1 ton Dry Matter (DM)/ha grass cover in early February.
Many farmers have had an opportunity over the past number of weeks to apply slurry; a half a bag per acre of Target Urea or Target’s UreaMax. Remember, conditions must be optimal, especially at this time of the year. It is not recommended to apply fertiliser or slurry on fields covered with frost or if there is a risk of heavy rainfall.
Sources of grass nutrition
Lime: the most economical source of lime is in powder form and should be used at the recommended rate following a soil test. It can be applied year-round, once soil and weather conditions are favourable. Although lime usage has increased in recent years, a Teagasc study shows that up to 65% of farms and individual fields have a suboptimal pH level. It is best practice to limit the volume of lime to 7.5 tonnes/ha in one application.
Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K): There are two sources of NPK; slurry and chemical fertiliser:
- Slurry: the required ratio of P and K on grazing ground is 1:2, therefore, it is best to retain slurry for silage fields as its ratio is 1:7 and is better suited to this type of ground. However, slurry can be used in low P and K grazing paddocks, especially if there are storage pressures and spreading conditions are suitable. Low Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS) systems are recommended to achieve maximum value from the nutrients. A hydrometer will give you an insight into the strength of the slurry, but it is recommended to complete an analysis of the nutrient breakdown. Pure cattle slurry without added water will have an average DM of 6.9%.
- Chemical fertilisers: To meet your requirement of N, P and K in one application, choose from Target Fertilisers’ extensive range of grassland fertilisers. Many of the Target Fertilisers’ products in this range are in the 1:2 ratio to meet your P and K grazing requirements. Analyse your soil test results and develop a farm nutrient plan with your advisor before selecting products for fertiliser application.
At this time of year, grass will only utilise approximately one unit of N per day and for that reason, it is recommended to limit early N application to a maximum of 30kg/ha or 24 units.
To view the full range of Target Fertilisers’ grassland fertiliser products, click here
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