It was a shock to many opening the PastureBase Ireland weekly report that 0mm of rain for all counties (bar 1mm for Donegal) was forecast for the week ahead.

It’s a great time of the year to have a settled period as mowers, balers and silage trailers skirt about back roads lifting grass. However, a dry period like this on already dry farms can lead to stressing of the traditional rye grass sward, causing swards that aren’t necessarily high to become stemmy.

It generally occurs at some point anyway, with the only real cure being a round of a mower; either mowing for silage, pre mowing or topping, with the preference always being to take the paddock out for silage.

Yes you will be baling up some stem, but this is going in to cows during a time when they are not under as much nutritional pressure during the winter period.

While pre-mowing allows for quicker regrowths compared to topping, and forces cows to be non-selective in grazing, it is a good option where a field cannot be baled.

With all the baling of surplus that’s been happening, farmers should be mindful of returning nutrients to these paddocks.

Mowing surplus without returning P and K back in to soils is a surefire way of hammering soil fertility.

As a good rule of thumb, every bale to the acre removed will require 500 gallons slurry/acre to replenish P and K levels e.g. 1,500 gallon/acre for three bales/acre removed.

As always, the use of LESS equipment will reduce the N loss to the atmosphere. With some reports of caking of slurry in dry weather, injection might be the best option until some further rain is on the cards.


  • Keep an eye on sward quality in the coming weeks. Swards are starting to stem out at >1,400kg DM/ha.
  • Where quality is an issue, mow and bale when the wedge allows.
  • Return nutrients back to the soil when removing surplus bales through chemical or organic N.
  • Spread 500 gallons/acre slurry for every bale/acre removed to return P and K.
  • Farmers

    Padraig Keane – Kilcormac, Co Offaly

    Growth has been relatively steady over the past few weeks with no major burst of growth. We mowed and baled eight acres in early May and mowed a further 12 acres on Tuesday. This should bring our cover/lu unit back to between 180-190kg.

    Sward quality is very good, with us targeting a pre grazing yield of 1,300-1,400 kg DM/ha.

    With the heavy rain we had three weeks ago, some of our graze outs were poor, so I’ve pre-mowed some paddocks to clean them up. Cows are being followed with a half bag of urea, as there is a high clover content in swards.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 3.06

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 68

    Average Farm Cover (kg/cow) 220

    Yield (l/cow) 21

    Fat % 4.73

    Protein% 3.74

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 1.83

    Concentrates 1.5

    Caroline O’Sullivan – Teagasc Curtins, Co Cork

    In the last two to three weeks, we have roughly 30% of the platform mowed and baled as surplus, with only two small paddocks now earmarked for mowing. Covers are now becoming a little stemmy, but we have a lot of these mowed paddocks coming back in to the rotation soon, so quality should hold.

    To date, 100kg N/ha has been spread on the farm, with nothing due to be spread until August/September with the high clover swards. Breeding has gone really well, with 92% submitted in the first three weeks and 98% by week four. We will be using all beef semen from here on.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 3.99

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 97

    Average Farm Cover (kg/cow) 172

    Yield (l/cow) 27.5

    Fat % 4.50

    Protein% 3.56

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 2.28

    Concentrates 3

    Philip Ruttle – Rathkeale, Co Limerick

    We’ve been taking out strong paddocks as necessary. Quality is becoming an issue and is very variable. Some paddocks are still very leafy at 1,600kg DM/ha while others are heading out at 1,200kg DM/ha.

    First cut silage is likely to be mown at the weekend, with yield and quality appearing good.

    Our clover paddocks have been followed with dairy washings, while grass swards are getting 15 units chemical N for a 21-day round. Breeding has been going very well, with only two cows remaining on week four to serve.

    These were put on a breeding programme and should be bred in the coming days.

    Stocking Rate (cows/ha) 3.56

    Growth Rate (kg/day) 62

    Average Farm Cover (kg/cow) 168

    Yield (l/cow) 22.5

    Fat % 4.01

    Protein% 3.47

    Milk Solids (kg/cow) 1.73

    Concentrates 2