- Date: 30 May 2012
- Venue: Greenmount Collage
Hundreds of farmers from across Northern Ireland attended the Greenmount Centenary Grassland Open Day, held in conjunction with the Ulster Grassland Society.
At Greenmount in the second week of May grass growth across the dairy paddocks was less than 50% of the 10 year GrassCheck average. As a consequence the majority of farms have been “chasing grass” particularly on set stocked, grazing ground.
However since week beginning 21st May weather conditions improved significantly and growth was recorded at over 100 kg DM/ha/day, a dramatic turnaround in a few days.
At the Grassland Open Day farmers were able to see first hand and discuss with CAFRE staff the management of the dairy herd, beef cattle and ewe flock in this volatile grass year with the sudden surge of grass.
Grazed grass still forms the majority of a dairy cow’s summer diet in Northern Ireland. It remains the cheapest, and one of the best quality feeds that a dairy farmer can use for his dairy herd. If grazing management is poor however, grass quality will decline leading to lower dry matter intakes and poorer grass utilisation. The difference between good grassland management and poor grassland management may seem small in practical terms but the financial difference can be substantial. A range in margin over concentrates in May on grazing farms can show as much as £2.00 per cow per day variation from the top to the bottom. For a 100 cow dairy herd, this means a difference in profit of £6,000 for a single month.
A grazing display at the event showed the quality of grass offered to the Future herd and demonstrated grass covers that are too heavy to graze and need to be taken out of a rotation and big baled. Typical daily performance of the Future Herd in May was a milk yield average of 28 – 30 litres produced from 5 – 6 kilos of concentrate.
At the event, the heifer rearing system at Greenmount was demonstrated and weight for age targets discussed. The herd has continued to use Holstein genetics where there is a wide choice of potential sires. Information on milk yield and fitness traits is used at Greenmount to ensure the breeding of a robust cow that will produce a lifetime yield of 40,000 litres after calving at 24 months of age.
Other stops at the event demonstrated good nutrient management planning techniques and the best grass seed varieties available at present.