I can’t let the Cows out to Grass – I’m Over Quota

- This is throwing away money every day!

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

Every day a cow spends at grass is worth over €2.50 per cow day.  So try to get the cows out to grass!!  Most of this gain in money is achieved through cost savings (65% or €1.75) and not increased milk yield or increased milk solids.  Grass is the cheapest feed – much cheaper than silage or meal so turn the cows out – take the wins.




Forget the small losses.  Focus on the big picture.  Putting the cows out to grass is the right thing for your pocket – it is the right thing to do for your cow.


Key point: Don’t delay getting cows out to grass or your pocket will be hit!


Spring Grazing Plan

Try to get the cows out to grass in February if at all possible.  This is somewhat dependent on the ground conditions or weather but many farmers are reluctant to get cows out irrespective of the weather.  Try at first to get the cows out during the day even if it is only for a few hours.  Do not target the best paddock of grass or paddock with highest amount of grass to be grazed first.  When the herd (mostly heifers) are turned out at first, the herd is not fully adjusted to grazing out paddocks well – so graze a poorer paddock or paddock with a low amount of grass until the herd “gets going” at grazing.



February aim


The aim for the month of February is get about 30-33% of the farm grazed by March 1st.  If you are farming on heavier land this is probably closer to 20-25% of the farm grazed by March 1st.  Finally, If you are running behind on the proportion of the farm grazed during February (about 7-8% of the farm per week) – target paddocks with less grass on them as you will move the herd through the farm quicker.  Your herd (in most circumstances) should be out at grass mostly on the grazing ground (not silage ground) during February.  This is because you need these paddocks to be ready to graze again in early April.


Key point: Set a target percentage of the farm to be grazed by the 1st March (20-33% depending on your land type) and focus on achieving this target.


Fertiliser Nitrogen/Slurry

Some farmers have already got some slurry out on some paddocks in January.   However, generally speaking there is a lot of grass on dairy farms so it is limited as to where slurry can be spread.  Therefore every dairy farmer should try to spread fertiliser - about 23 units/acre of Nitrogen. Urea (half bag/acre) is the product of choice (except in a field where lime has been spread in last 2 months).  This fertiliser should be spread (weather permitting) on almost all the farm.   Many farmers will be tempted to skip paddocks with very high amounts of grass on them.  After grazing it takes a while for these paddocks to recover – it could be a while (for different reasons) before the paddocks get fertiliser nitrogen.  That is why they should get some nitrogen fertiliser whether they are going to be grazed or not in February. The number of days suitable for spreading fertiliser in February is often limited so when the opportunity arises, take it and spread most of the farm.



Key point: Spread fertiliser on almost all the farm, don’t skip paddocks with heavy covers of grass or they will be slow to re-grow grass after grazing.

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