Peter Hynes: Potash and lime are cheap fixes that can dramtically improve soil fertility



The schools re-opening, evenings drawing in and weather that’s certainly autumnal, it is a reminder that some planning is required to extend the grazing season.

We are also moving into our new house, a project that consumed so much of our time over the previous few months. The advantage of having a spring calving dairy herd is that come late June the workload allowed us time to take a big step back and devote time to the new homestead which will be mission control for the farming operation.

In the farmyard, the sheds have all been power-washed and the last of the fertiliser is in the yard. We plan to blanket spread the entire farm over the next few days with protected urea and we also have 15 acres of third cut silage to cut and bale.

In an ideal world we wouldn’t be cutting so late and would aim to have had the crop finished by now as I always feel third cut leafy grass can be hard to turn into quality silage.

Grass cover

Meanwhile, the main focus now is on building farm grass cover. Our aim is to get our farm cover up to over 1100 kg/dm/ha by the end of September. Given all the wet weather we have had, it stands to reason we are surely in for some sort of a fine spell and, as with every aspect of farming, the gambler in me would be quite happy if our farm cover exceeded 1100 kg/dm/ha as we will start closing paddocks on October 1 for re-opening in February 2021.

Paddocks with a higher cover are easily grazed in dry conditions which I am banking on. Many may say the start of October is a little early to close paddocks, but we can comfortably graze cows here in early February and grazing will cease on our farm this year when our farm drops to 700kgs/dm/ha sometime in the latter half of November

Within a few weeks, the rotation length should be at 35 days for the cows. The value of spring grass is four times that of summer or autumn grass, so if needs be we will increase concentrate per cow now to ensure we extend the rotation. Any potash issues as regards soil fertility will be addressed once we start closing paddocks. Spreading a half to a full back of potash per acre can have a dramatic positive impact and is a relatively easy fix when it comes to soil fertility.

Now is the time to price potash and have it in the yard ready to spread and likewise with lime. As the attention increases on the volume of fertiliser Irish farms are spreading, lime is by far the best return on investment with the added advantage of higher nitrogen utilisation.

The only remaining task for us now on farm is to have the herd scanned to confirm how the breeding season went. The cows seem quiet with few heats so fingers crossed. Ideally we should have it completed by now, but the joys of packing and unpacking our worldly possessions has taken priority.

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