WELSH livestock farmers are being urged to prepare for a surge in grass following the unusually cold spring.

The president of the British Grassland Society (BGS), Dr Sinclair Mayne, said members from across the country had highlighted the fact that grass hasn’t been growing because the cold weather has kept soil temperatures well below average.

“This is causing severe hardship on livestock farms across the UK, given the legacy of poor summer conditions last year, with winter feed stocks virtually exhausted,” said Dr Mayne.

“Many farms have been forced to feed higher than normal levels of expensive concentrate feeds to alleviate fodder shortages, significantly increasing production costs.”

Dr Mayne highlighted the need for farmers to plan for the inevitable surge in growth as weather conditions become more favourable.

He added: “In previous years, after a cold spring, growth rates have surged above normal once temperatures return to the seasonal average. Farmers need to be ready to utilise this growth effectively.

“This will require careful management on grazing areas to avoid grass surpluses, resulting in high grazing residuals and poor sward quality later in the season.

“Similarly, while silage harvest dates will be delayed to allow swards to bulk up, care needs to be taken to monitor grass quality.

Seed head development in first harvest growth (ear emergence) has varied by only a few days over the last 20 years. So, delaying too long to achieve higher yields can result in a reduction in grass (and silage) quality. Farmers may need to accept lower grass yields than normal for first cut, but compensate for this with increased yields at subsequent harvests.”

For more information visit the BGS website www.britishgrassland.com.