AgriSearch, AFBI and CAFRE will be hosting two GrassCheck farm walks next week on 25th and 26th April on the farms of Joe Cush (Pomeroy) and Harold Johnston (Ahoghill).
Several topics will be addressed during the farm walks, including an overview of the data gathered from the 20 GrassCheck dairy pilot farmers over the course of the last two years. This highlights the variation in grass growth and weather conditions across Northern Ireland during two very different years.
The walks will demonstrate how to grow high yields of grass. The considerable variation of yields from paddock to paddock seen across the GrassCheck farms will be highlighted and strategies to optimise the use of artificial fertiliser examined.
Grass budgeting will also be discussed. This will address the practicalities of measuring and budgeting grass, and strategies to optimise allocation of grass to cows.
Cow management at grass will be the focus of the final stop. This will consider the value of spring grass and examine strategies for concentrate supplementation.
The first farm walk will be held on the farm of Joe Cush, 92 Lurganeden Road, Pomeroy, BT70 2TL on Thursday 25th April at 10.45am. Joe runs a 70-cow herd of Holstein-Friesians, with an average yield of 7,000 litres per cow, feeding 1.5t concentrates per cow. The 150ac farm has a strong focus on grassland management to maximise milk from forage, which averages 3,429 litres/cow/year.
Grassland management is a key focus for the farm. Soil nutrients are monitored on both grazed and silage ground, with the regular application of lime and maintenance of nutrient levels across the farm. Sward renewal with regular reseeding helps to maintain the high-quality grass growth that is achieved on this farm.
In 2018 the farm achieved an average of 11.7 t dry matter/ha grown, with an average grass utilisation rate of 88% across the grazing platform. The all-grass, LFA farm also employs on/off grazing to maximise use of grass at the shoulders of the season with 8 days of grazing achieved in February this year in good weather conditions.
The second farm walk will be held on the farm of Harold Johnston, 5 Clooney Road, Ahoghill, BT42 2RA on Friday 26th April at 10.45am. Harold, who farms in partnership with sons Jack and Mark, runs a herd of 270 autumn-winter calving Holstein-Friesian cows averaging 9,000 litres/cow/year.
Harold has been measuring grass growth on his farm for the last five years and is using the data to boost both grass production and cow performance from forage. Last year the farm grew a 12.6t DM/ha across the grazing platform.
The farm currently has a rolling milk from forage of 2,500 litres/cow/year which Harold aims to increase to 3,000 litres/cow/year through higher performance from the grazing platform. “In the past four years we have focused heavily on our soils on both the grazing and silage areas to boost our grass yields” comments Harold.