“Land is the New Quota!”

-Get 33% extra land without leasing!!

The results from over 1,400 grass silage samples sent to the Dairygold laboratory for analysis are in, and there is very little difference in the average DMD (feeding value) of silage made in 2014 versus 2013 (69.4 versus 69.1) or in the crude protein level (11.7 versus 11.8). Averages from the last five years are shown in the graphics below.   
Dairygold Silage Analysis Average DMD by Year (2010-2014)
Dairygold Silage Analysis Average Crude Protein by Year (2010-2014)
Averages can hide a multitude however; and there are large variances between and within farms as can be seen in the pie charts below.
Range of Silage DMD levels in 2014
Range of Silage Crude Protein % in 2014
It’s a powerful reminder that nobody should rely on guess-work for determining silage Quality. Recommended concentrate supplementation rates for milking cow will vary by up to 3Kg per head per day for <60 DMD silages versus >70 DMD silages. 
Key point: We recommend testing all silage, each pit / cut of bales to accurately determine supplementation rates

Many dairy farmers will tell you that land is the new quota as of now in early April 2015.  Farmer optimism (not just dairying) and changes in government policy has resulted in increased prices being paid for rented land.  So it is timely that we address this frenzy.


Start at Home!

A spend of €150/ac would allow you purchase 4 bags of a compound fertiliser (18:6:12, 10:10:20 etc.) and 2 tonnes of lime.  This would go a long way to fixing a soil fertility problem in just 1 year.  In most cases it will add 25-33% more grass grown/acre (an additional 3 tonne DM/ha). 



Yet in many parts of the Dairygold region, it is not uncommon to spend double this money on rented land and do so for 5-7 years.  In most cases this land will have poor soil fertility and probably poor grasses.  So surely it makes sense to “fix” your own land first rather than fix someone else’s farm while paying close on €300/ac for the privilege. The single greatest factor that influences profit on a dairy farm is the level of grass utilised (eaten) per acre. Every additional tonne of grass utilised/ha is worth €160/ha at current milk prices.


Poor soil fertility is a huge problem all over the country.  Fingers are being pointed in all directions and by many different parties. The blame game will not fix the problem.  Soil testing is the first step in the solution process.  Soil testing should not be carried out just for the reason that it is part of a regulatory purpose.  It should be carried out for reason of trying to grow more grass on your farm. Soil testing (in most cases) will increase the amount of Phosphorus (P) fertiliser that can be spread.


Key point

There is an opportunity to grow 25-33% more grass this year for a spend of €150/acre. This investment delivers a much stronger return than paying huge sums to rent ground. Concentrate your investment on soil fertility-the first step is soil testing. 


End of the First Round

The end of the first round should occur in early April.  At the time of writing (mid-March) most farmers are behind on the proportion of the farm grazed (should be around 60%).  This would suggest that the first round would end a little later than normal i.e. somewhere in the second week of April.  A decision will have to be made as to when you should start the second round of grazing.  Your aim should be when the grass is almost right for grazing i.e. 1100 – 1200kg DM/ha.  If growth is good over the next 3 weeks (i.e. from mid-March on) then maybe some of the silage ground shouldn’t be grazed as it would delay the start of second round.  If growth was poor from mid-March on then maybe the second week of April would be ok to begin the second round.  


It is important to walk your farm and keep your eye on the few paddocks that were grazed first in February.  By watching what is happening in terms of growth on these paddocks will determine whether you will speed up or slow down grazing of the paddocks at the end of the first round in the first 2 weeks of April. It is important to note that the farmers who finish the first round of grazing earlier are growing more grass on their farm.

For those farmers who carry out pasture measurements, try to target a cover of about 150-160kgDM/cow on the farm at the start of the second round of grazing


Key point

Be aware of grazing targets and aim to achieve them e.g. finish the first round of grazing in early April. However, by walking the farm regularly you can adjust the plan depending on growth, weather etc.


Graze Out Well

April will be a key month to get paddocks cleaned off well.  It has been difficult to clean off paddocks in February and March (so far) as well as we would like.  Getting paddocks grazed off well during April is vital to ensure high quality grass is available during the latter half of May and the month of June.  The Spring of 2013 ensured that all grass was grazed off well during April due to scarcity.  The net result of this was very high milk protein levels in June of that year because grass quality was so good.


Key point

Grazing paddocks off well in in April is key to high grass quality, and therefore high milk proteins, in late May and June.


Grazing paddocks off well in in April = high grass quality/high milk proteins in late May and June.



Most dairy farms need to have 60-70 units of Nitrogen/acre (N/ac) applied by early April.  The next target is to have 90-100 units of fertiliser N/ac applied by May 1st.  Remember that many farms are deficient in P and K so applying compound fertiliser e.g. 18:6:12 needs to be considered.  Application of P is very important in the first half of the year.  


Many dairy farms also respond well to Sulphur (S) application.  The target is to have 15-20 units/ac of Sulphur applied by late June.  This can be achieved by spreading Nitrogen + S type fertiliser or using A.S.N (14 units of S/50kg bag) type fertiliser.  If you are going to use Nitrogen + S type fertiliser then you need to start in April as there are only about 5 units of S per 50kg bag.


Most soils in the Dairygold co-op area are poor in terms of soil fertility. They are either Index 1 or 2 for both P and K.  The silage ground tends to be the worst area.  Therefore most of the silage fields for first cut need 2-3 bags of 0:7:30/ac and about 90-100 units of N/ac.  This fertiliser application needs to be carried out immediately in early April, if not done already.  It can be assumed that if silage ground is grazed and received nitrogen before grazing in early March that 66% of this Nitrogen is “used up”.  Previous applications of slurry will help address the P & K deficit. 


Curtins Farm Mid-March (600kg DM/ha): 1st paddock grazed in early Feb. Grew 14kgD/ha/day. It is important to walk the farm and keep your eye on the few paddocks that were grazed first in February.


Key point

Target a total of 90-100 units N on grazing ground by May 1st. Don’t forget about P, K and sulphur (P is particularly important early in the year). Silage ground is typically low fertility and is likely to need 2-3 bags of 0:7:30/ac and about 90-100 units of N/ac for the first cut.

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