Thursday, 25 March 2010

Spring is Here!.....Or is that just a Rumour!

Most UK & Irish grass based dairyfarmers are struggling for grass. Pasture growth up until the past week has been next to nothing due to the very cold soil temperatures. The lack of moisture in most of the country has not helped pastures either. Soil temperatures need to be about 5 degrees C for Ryegrass to grow & above 8 degrees for clover to grow. Soil temperatures have only just risen so there has been NO growth.
However there are encouraging signs that the daily weather is long last!

Winter Damage to Pastures.

Most dairyfarm pastures have been damaged this winter by the extended cold & freezing temperatures. Cows appear to be grazing these fields really well despite the damaged plant tissue.
The big question is what damage has actually occurred?
There is a difference between winter damage & winter kill. Winter kill is where the meristem or growing point is killed by the freezing temperatures (ice rather than snow). The meristem or crown in ryegrass is very close to the ground & undamaged by grazing down to 1500 residual. It appears that this winter we have had pasture plant tissue damage & very little winter kill where the meristem has died. Most of the lower fertility grasses eg annual meadow grasses have been damaged & may explain why grazed pastures look so open. So very few ryegrass tillers have been lost.(Scott Laidlaw at AFBI Crossnacreevy agrees)
Once growth starts new tillers will be initiated..this is already happening. If we continue to get frosts this may effect the flowering of ryegrasses. Since 1997 at Aberystwyth Alan Lovatt tells me that the number of days to flowering have been reducing as we have had warm springs. So continued cold temperatures may possibly delay heading of ryegrasses.
Too early to say if pastures need additional ryegrasses....maybe clover will fill the gaps left by the killing off of the meadow grasses.
There is a marked difference on most farms between pasture that has been grazed & those fields still to be grazed. All the growth is happening on grazed pasture whereas the ungrazed pasture is still going backwards.

It is critical that cows don't go short of feed & lose body Condition Score in the month prior to mating. Most farms are faced with buying feed even though grazing conditions have been excellent. Many silage clamps are virtually empty. Time to Measure Pastures.

Ben, Sam, Michael & George from the DMS course for Herdsmen were out this week at Reaseheath College practising with the pasture platemeter. It's time everyone got out & measured pasture. Make sure new staff are using the platemeter correctly & that everyone on the team understands the Pasture Wedge Graphs. If you dont have them on your computer email me


Cumbria Still using Spring Rotation Planner, Soil Temp 6.7 degrees

Staffordshire 1725 Average Farm Cover, 14 daily growth

Staffordshire 1650, 15, Soil Temp 8.5

Herefordshire 1650

Herefordshire 1780, 7

Monmouthshire 1684, 21

Pembrokeshire 1801, 20

Pembrokeshire 1690 Av Farm Cover, 6+kgsDM growth per ha, 7.5 degrees C

Gloucestershire 1861, 19, 8.7

Wiltshire 1840, 19

Dorset 1554, 2

Sussex 1671, 18, 8.2

Devon 1650, 5+

Cornwall 1840, 40

Cornwall 1900, 50, 9.0 degrees C

Limerick, Ireland 1750 Av Farm Cover, 13kgsDM/ha daily growth

So book your tropical holidays now...........warmest destinations are either Lizard Point Cornwall or Lydney in Gloucestershire! C'Mon the sunshine!!!!

1 comment:

  1. Grass has just started growing and the cows have come back in- last year was a brilliant spring- This year a nightmare