January is the calm before the storm for Spring calving dairy herds. Dairy farmers are about to head into the busiest time of the year and its time to focus on the workload ahead. So many things to think of– preparation for calving, cow condition, herd health, calving facilities, training heifers, soil tests, spreading slurry, early nitrogen application, grass measurement and budgeting etc. etc.
Just to focus on the last point of grass measurement & budgeting – as an industry we are very quick to label ourselves as being grass-based, and yes, it is true in the main. Cows do graze for a considerable part of their lactation year but also true that the most profitable grass-based dairy farms are those which adopt best grassland management practices within their land type and location. They achieve long grazing season length and high sward quality and high levels of grass utilisation. It does not happen by chance. It is the result of measurement, budgeting and then applying the best grassland management practises. So, if it ends with management, it starts with the measurement!
Grass Measurement allows you to:
- Determine opening farm cover at the start of grazing
- Create a Spring grass & feed budget
- Target magic day cover in April
- Identify grass surpluses and deficits allowing to maintain ideal pre-grazing covers and sward quality
- Maintain desirable farm cover through the Summer
- Budget to build farm cover through August and September
- Target peak cover in late September
- Create an Autumn grass & feed budget
- Determine to target closing cover at the end of the season
- Determine typically over Winter growth
- Calculate grass production on individual paddocks and total for the farm.
The number of farmers practising grass measurement is continuously growing but there are still many who have yet to engage the practice. New stipulations as part of Derogation 2020 means that > 6000 derogation farmers must measure grass at least 20 times through the grazing season. As recent Teagasc study looked to explore the reasons why. Reasons included lack of skill and self-efficacy, the uncertainty of its value and lack of support. The study suggests one of the main reasons is simply the perception that it takes a lot of effort and time.
Grass measurement itself is not difficult and measurement tools make it easy. The Rising Platemeter is fast becoming the most common grass measurement device giving accurate readings at high and low grazing covers and especially useful to measure the post grazing height and cover. The newest models automatically link and enter the data onto PastureBase and Agrinet as you go.
In the context of already high workloads on dairy farms, it is understandable how some farmers believe that grass measurement “is another job that I simply don’t have time to do”…and that’s where OpusAgri can help.
OpusAgri is the new farmer/worker web-based platform providing farm labour & service solutions at a local, regional and national level. The platform is now unearthing a small army of willing grass measurers, armed with their own platemeter, ready to provide grass measurement service for the year ahead. They will walk the farm regularly; measure paddock covers and enter the data on the relevant program. From the farmer’s point of view, the most time-consuming part of the process is taken care of.
It is interesting to see the variance in the backgrounds of those putting themselves forward for work on the OpusAgri platform. Their similarity is that they are all wanting to work on farms, but their dissimilarity is their age, career paths, genders, backgrounds, experience etc. from students to shift workers, housewives/husbands to part-time workers…all with spare time and all looking to boost their income. Many workers put themselves forward for general farm work, but some looking to do more specific work, for example, grass measuring, relief milking, machinery work, calf rearing etc, all part of the daily workload on any farm.
Take Ben McCarthy for example. A North Cork based drystock farmer, working part-time on a dairy farm and with spare time to carry out grass measurement for other local farmers. Also, Yulya O’Regan, a married mother of three, dairy farming in Co. Limerick but also providing a grass measurement service for other local farmers. Another is Michael Carmody, a Cork-based student who grew up on a dairy farm but with the spare time between college activities looking for morning & evening relief milking opportunities with some grass measuring in-between. Platemeters are ready and ready to measure!
OpusAgri is connecting farmers and farmworkers. If you are a person looking to work or provide a service on a farm, or if you are a farmer looking for a farm worker, farm service or a job to be done, visit opusagri.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.