The Co. Monaghan dairy farm of Declan McKenna has commenced its 2023 grazing season. Located in Doogary, near Tydavnet in the north of the county, the farm is home to 70 spring-calving dairy cows, along with a poultry enterprise. The farm prioritizes the best use of grazed grass. Currently, the cows are averaging 6,000L at 4.4% butterfat and 3.4% protein, with the milk supplied to Lakeland Dairies.
Effective grass measuring has always been a priority objective for Declan McKenna. However, managing two enterprises meant that other priorities might have taken precedence at certain times of the year. But, all that changed when he signed up to a grass measuring service at the start of the 2022 grazing season. He believes it was one of the best decisions he has ever made.
The grass measuring service is carried out accurately 30 times throughout the grazing season. The information gathered is transferred in real-time to an app that has been downloaded onto Declan’s phone and a tablet device kept at the house. He receives a series of recommendations on how best to manage the grass available across all the paddocks. As a result, he is in control of the grass, not the other way around.
Declan believes that the grass measuring service will be of even more value to him this year. There has been no grass growth of note across the farm up to this point. The cows are only getting out now. This means there will be an explosion of growth over the next few weeks, all of which will have to be carefully managed. The grass measuring service allows him to work out that the paddocks averaged 11.1t of grass dry matter [DM] per hectare [ha] last year.
It was the first time that he had ever been able to work out this figure so accurately. He was pleasantly surprised to find out how much grass the farm can actually grow. It is also a good point from which to build for the future. Christopher Moffitt from Farm Relief recently visited the McKenna farm and said, “The new service takes the stress out of grass measuring for farmers. It entails swards being assessed on 30 occasions throughout the grazing season. The information gathered is sent back to the farmer with the use of grass budgeting software. This includes the accurate assessment of the grass available for grazing on a real-time basis. The software also calculates grass demand, daily grass growth, grazing days ahead and average farm cover.”
Regular measuring lets farmers know when and how they can react to a constantly changing grass supply situation on the farm. With the help of the grass measuring service, Declan is optimistic about the future of his farm, and he is confident that he can continue to make the best use of the grazed grass to improve the productivity and profitability of his farm.