IT IS ONLY the second week in February but already some Limerick farmers are cutting grass.
It shows the high grass covers currently on farms after the good growth rates in late autumn and throughout the winter. Zero grazing is one of the tactics farmers can look at to utilise the grass on fields with high covers
One of those zero grazing paddocks is Noel Halpin, of Quarry Hill, Kilmallock. His farm manager, Gerard Doyle, took this picture of O’Mahony’s agri-contractors hard at work last week.
“We decided last week we had to zero graze two of our highest cover paddocks. It’s not something you see on the first week of February. We started last Wednesday, February 4,” said Ger.
Slurry was spread on it before the deadline last autumn and now the grass has gone very strong.
“We said if we left the cows out on it now they were only going to walk it into the ground so we said we would cut it and give it in to them by night.
“Our neighbours, the O’Mahony’s, are bringing it in for us - they are only down the road,” explained Ger, aged 21.
Since the weekend they have 85 cows calved in their first three weeks of calving which is a little under 50 per cent. The first cow was calved on January 21.
“Our target would be to have 90 per cent calved by March 1. It’s a case of so far so good with 85 cows and 84 calves. Cows are out by day since January 25.
“We started off on paddocks at a cover of 750 kg/dm ha. Since then more cows calved have gone to higher covers of 1,400 to 1,500 kg/dm ha. Twelve hour strip wire is used to clean out paddocks,” said Ger, who is from Tineteriffe, Cappamore, and is a graduate of Pallaskenry Agricultural College.
Interestingly, he doesn’t come from a farming background. But having worked with John Macnamara in Knockainey and now Mr Halpin Ger has the equivalent of decades of experience, despite his young age.
To date they have 14 acres grazed off in Kilmallock. So with the cows being milked eating the grass from zero grazing at night - they are on grass 24/7.
Once they finished off zero grazing one paddock they left the cows off to clear the headlands.
“We were speaking to another farmer and he was saying isn’t it great to have cows grazing headlands on the first week of February. It is normally the middle of June,” said Ger.
Of course the excellent land helps carry out this practice but some farmers on poorer land are interested in it too as they maintain the zero grazer does less damage than a herd of cows.
“It would be one of the driest farm around here. It would always be known as one of the first farms to leave the cows out. He always starts calving early because he can put them out straight away,” said Ger.
Having the cows on grass day and night is keeping fat and protein percentages up.
“The dry matter this time of year would be very high on the grass The cows are getting 5kg 18 per cent dairy nut morning and evening,” said Ger.
The O’Mahony’s front mover and Lely wagon is hardly leaving a mark on the ground and leaving the field very clean. Since then they have spread slurry - 2,500/3,000 gallons per acre.