Agronomy Advice
April 21, 2023

How Wet Conditions are Challenging Grassland Farmers

One of the things that keeps farming interesting is that every year is different. Of course this can also be incredibly frustrating, presenting new challenges year on year.

Farmer and a Yara Agronomist reviewing the soil in a farm
Farmer and a Yara Agronomist reviewing the soil in a farm

At the moment, most farmers will be grappling with wet weather. Whilst this is nothing new - the weather can cause wildly different conditions within which to farm, complicating every decision. And they wonder why farmers are so obsessed with the weather!

March 2023 has delivered one of the wettest spring starts for many years and April doesn’t seem to be drying things out. The wet weather has a knock on impact on grassland management. Normally cows would be out happily grazing, but this year you will be grazing cows carefully in order to prevent pugging, damaging valuable paddocks for future grass growth. You may even have reallocated grazing paddocks to silage to prevent the kind of damage you would see if cows were out grazing in such wet weather.

Despite the rain, grass growth hasn’t been too bad, but it has certainly delayed things; many farmers still haven’t spread their 1st cut fertilizer due to limited grazing. But it is important to apply your nitrogen and sulphur fertilizer to protect your future cuts and grazing grass growth. We would also remind you that it is still a great time to apply a NPK+S fertilizer like Yara Mila STOCK BOOSTER S; this is especially important if you skipped a potassium and phosphate treatment last year. Avoid that limiting factor by ensuring plentiful supply of everything your grass needs to grow.

Getting this fertilizer application out is important whatever grassland management system you are adopting but it is particularly important if you have part of your grazing area closed up for 1st cut silage.

Fertilizer application tips

  • If you haven’t applied your 1st cut fertilizer yet then it’s a good idea to evaluate the nitrogen (N) rate. If you intend to keep to the same cutting date to make the same quantity of silage then you’ll need to calculate the N rate by counting the number of days between applying the N and the harvest date and multiply by 2.5kg/ha of N per day to give you the rate required per hectare. 
  • Don’t be tempted to extend the harvest date as feeding value deteriorates rapidly.

Effect of harvest date on silage feed value 

Harvest Date 

  10 May 17 May  24 May  31 May 7 June 
Crude Protein (g/kg DM) 154 136 118 107 95
DMD (g/kg DM) 802 786 760 719 689

Potential DM intake(kg 500k steer/day)

9.5 9.3 8.5 8.0 7.4

(Keady et al., 2000)

In readiness for your 1st cuts in late April/early May make sure your clamps are clean and ready and mower knives are sharpened.

Don’t forget to plan your 2nd cut fertilizer applications if you haven’t already got your full fertilizer order in your yard ready and waiting. We’d recommend an AN or CAN based fertilizer product for your 2nd cuts as they have more reliable yields and much lower ammonia emissions than urea.

Let’s hope the weather dries out soon!