Why LESS Could Mean More Grass For Farmers This Spring

Grass availability is reported to be strong on farms primarily due to a relatively mild winter, the implementation of autumn rotation plans and improved soil fertility on farms helping to boost growth. Pasturebase Ireland indicates that, on average, 3-4kg DM of grass grew daily over December and early January on farms across the country.

Calving season is well underway across the country, but unfortunately current weather conditions in many parts of the country are hampering our ability to spread fertiliser and get grass in the diet for cows freshly calved.

The weather is proving tricky for fertiliser applications or grazing, but it’s still important to continue assessing grass availability and ground conditions.

Walk the farm and complete a grass wedge on Pasturebase. As with measuring fodder reserves and assessing your requirements, completing a grass wedge gives you an excellent indication of the grass available on the farm.

All natural: six to eight units of nitrogen can be gained from 1000 gallons of good quality cattle slurry along with five units of phosphorus and 25 units of potassium using low emission slurry spreading (LESS) methods, Fields with a low grass cover should be targeted with 2,500 gallons per acre.

All natural: six to eight units of nitrogen can be gained from 1000 gallons of good quality cattle slurry along with five units of phosphorus and 25 units of potassium using low emission slurry spreading (LESS) methods, Fields with a low grass cover should be targeted with 2,500 gallons per acre.

This practice should become a regular routine on farm.

The big question, of course, is what fertiliser and how much of it should you be spreading now?

The key driver of early grass growth is nitrogen (N), with research indicating that every 1kg of nitrogen applied in the springtime gives a response of 6kg/DM to 10kg/DM grass growth.

There is a greater response to early nitrogen applied on farms on recently reseeded swards when optimum soil fertility is in place.

Protected urea should be your fertiliser of choice to drive grass growth this spring, while reducing emissions to the atmosphere versus other chemical fertilisers.

What is protected urea? It is urea coated with urease inhibitor (NPPT, NBPT/2-NPT) which reduces the loss of emissions when applied for grass growth.

Straight CAN, for example, is prone to leaching in early spring and releases greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions when spread. Urea when spread needs to change from nitrite to nitrate for grass growth production.

However, during this process it releases ammonia emissions to the atmosphere. Protected urea is less volatile in the atmosphere and produces less greenhouse gas emissions and ammonia emissions when applied.

Apply 60-70 units of protected urea per acre before April 1 across the milking platform.

To achieve this target, fertiliser applications can be divided into two to three splits, with 23 units going out in February and a further 46 units in March.

Slurry provides a rich source of nutrients to grow grass in springtime applications. In terms of low emission slurry (LESS) application this spring, six to eight units of nitrogen can be gained from 1,000 gallons of good quality cattle slurry along with five units of phosphorus and 25 units of potassium.

Target fields with a low grass cover and apply 2,500 gallons/acre through low emission application.

Slurry spread by LESS can be spread on covers up to 1,000kg/DM whereas the splash plate should only be used on covers of 500kg/DM or less.

Slurry should be applied on fields that can be travelled on and with a low index for phosphorous and potassium.

Image-source-Grassland-Agro-February-e1582283112306

Review your Teagasc coloured soil fertility maps and select paddocks that are shaded pink or blue, as these paddocks are index one or two respectively for phosphorous or potassium.

Consider hiring in a contractor to reduce the spring workload and get both slurry and fertiliser spread. Don’t fall into the trap of delaying fertiliser application just because you might have high covers of grass available on the farm. Grazed grass has a large demand for nitrogen and delaying early application results in a poor regrowth’s for second rotation grazing.

A fertiliser product like 18-6-12, needs to be applied on grazing paddocks which are index one or index two for phosphorus and potassium.

Timing of phosphorous-based fertiliser is important and soil temperatures need to be around 10C for growth at 30kg/DM/day.

The prolonged wet weather over the past few days has left soil saturated and on average soil temperatures are 5.5C across the country.

Soil temperature-based products should be spread in mid to late March, when ground temperatures have naturally increased.

The table (left) highlights fertiliser application times throughout the grazing season.

Image-source-Grassland-Agro-February-2

Sulphur

Sulphur is an important nutrient which needs to be included in compound fertilisers applied from April onwards. It increases the efficiency and uptake of nitrogen in the soil, along with increasing the protein content in the grass plant.

On average, target 16 units/acre of sulphur on the grazing platform and 20 units/acre in silage swards.

Remember that there are limits on the amount of chemical nitrogen and phosphorus you are allowed to spread.

It is important to remain compliant with EU nitrate regulations so review your chemical fertiliser limits on your nutrient management plan and consult with your advisor for further advice.

It’s also important to remain safe during this busy period and make sure all machinery is serviced and functioning properly.

When operating with slurry, remove all livestock from the shed and agitate slurry on a windy day.

(Source – Irish Independent – Indo Farming – Niall Kerins – 25/02/2020)

Related Article:

Spring Phosphorus Essential To Set Up Grass Growth For The Season

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