Guidelines for dairy farmers following difficult weather conditions


George Ramsbottom, Pat Clarke, Siobhán Kavanagh, – Teagasc Specialist Service


Scenario 1. Pasture that missed a round of fertiliser N (e.g. 30 units/acre)

We can expect that some compensatory growth will occur as weather conditions improve. We recommend the full rate of fertiliser N is applied as per the farm stocking rate (as outlined in the table below) plus approximately 10-15 units extra (to a maximum of 45 units per acre in this application). In all circumstances, farmers should do this while abiding to the Nitrates regulations.

Stocking rate July & August (LU/ha) June Kg/ha (u/ac) July Kg/ha (u/ac) August Kg/ha (u/ac)
17 (14) 17 (14) 17 (14)
2.0 – 2.5 26 (21) 26 (21) 25 (20)
2.5 – 3.0 34 (28) 34 (28) 34 (28)
3.0 – 3.5 34 (28) 26 (21) 26 (21)
> 3.5 34 (28) 30 (24) 30 (24)

Scenario 2. Pasture that was damaged during the last round of grazing

  • Root development is required where pasture has been poached. Phosphorus is relatively immobile in the soil. At soil index 2 0r lower (where permitted under the Nitrates regulations) up to 5 units of P/ac should be applied to promote root (and hence pasture) recovery in the form of a blended N & P compound. Apply fertiliser N at the rates outlined above.
  • Remove grass – either by tight grazing if conditions allow or grazing plus topping. Tight mowing and ensiling the grass is not as suitable an option as soil contamination of the harvested material may ensue.
  • Rolling – not suitable as it compacts the high soil, does nothing for deep holes and may smear the top of the soil resulting in further impeded drainage.
  • Surface seeding – consider in areas where damage was severe.

Scenario 3. Where fields were grazed, having been closed up and fertilised for silage

The Teagasc ‘Green Book’ states that 20% of the fertiliser N applied for first cut is still available to the crop i.e. up to 20 units N per acre. Where permissible under Nitrates, 80 units of N per acre should be applied to such swards, where the farmer intends to harvest a ‘heavy’ first cut e.g. 7-8 weeks later.

Scenario 4. Second cut silage – fertiliser N recommendation

The Teagasc ‘Green Book’ recommends that 100 kg N/ha (80 units per acre) of the fertiliser N should be applied for second cut silage. In wet weather this may be reduced by up to 5 units per 1,000 gallons cattle slurry applied per acre.


Estimate the amount of winter feed required

Animal type No. of animals (a) Winter feeding (months) (b) Silage required per month (c.) Total (a x b x c)
Cows 1.6
In calf heifers 1.3
Weanlings – heifers 0.7
Cattle – weanlings 0.7
Cattle – stores 1.3
Other stock

Estimate silage made to date and planned for the remainder of 2009

Acres Yield Total
First cut
Second cut
Bales ( bale = 1t)

Surplus/deficit: _____________t silage

Where there is a deficit – consider one or a combination of the following

  • Reduce stock numbers over winter
  • Cut more second cut silage
  • Purchase standing crops of silage
  • Purchase roughage later in the season
  • Use meal to supplement with restricted silage
  • Forage crops such as kale/rape