Growth figures have certainly taken a dip this week due to cold northern winds and low night time temperatures rather than a lack of moisture that is usually attributed to a seasonal slump.

However, farmers on drier soils have been saying that ground is rock hard on the surface, likely owing to the winds rather than any fantastic heat or sunshine, so the current rainfall should sort these out.

Farmers across the country have been echoing the same message to me; while anything with grass is growing OK, anything that was recently grazed or mowed is very slow to bounce back.

It comes back to the phrase ‘grass grows grass’ which is why it’s as important as ever to hold farm cover at an acceptable level.

Walking the farm is as important (if not more so) when growth is poor to analyse the extent of any deficit and allow for suitable supplementation.

Grazing stemmy covers

For drystock farmers, farm cover should not drop below 550kg DM/ha, as doing so will result in the rotation being too short which will exasperate a shortage of grass.

Dairy farmers should aim for a minimum cover of 150kg DM/lu.

What will have to be done on a lot of farms is that less than ideal covers will have to be grazed. Some dairy farmers will opt to graze heavy covers for 12 hours and lighter, leafier covers for the second half of the day.

This will work well to help hold production and energy levels in cows, though there is some extra work involved in it. Farmers with spring calving suckler herds should be allowing calves to creep graze ahead of cows to give calves access to the best grass. Strip wires should be used to maximise the clean outs, and when the balance is right between allocation and appetite, cattle should be relatively happy.

Fertiliser applications should be brought up to date, and with the showery conditions we are seeing the last few days, slurry can also be applied, provided that there is no extreme thundery bursts on the horizon.

Using LESS for spreading slurry will double the amount of N available to the soil at this time of the year, but caution needs to be exercised that the slurry isn’t applied to thickly (>2,500 gallons/acre) or that conditions are very dry post application.