Ground conditions ensure grazing is still a bit away

The middle of February — and not a lot of grazing yet. At least it looks like it might not be so wet this coming week.

A dry spell is badly needed to get slurry and fertiliser out.

For many, grazing is still a good bit away, due to ground conditions. Ground is actually in good condition on many farms, but there is a lot of standing water about.

Don’t travel ground or turn animals out if you will do excessive damage.

Remember that any damage that you do at this time of year is likely to reduce overall grass yield for the year.

Grazing

If you are lucky enough to be out grazing, it is important to manage the swards carefully. The better you graze out paddocks in the first rotation, the better subsequent grass quality will be. Don’t rule out the use of a strip wire in the first rotation, to help reduce damage, and ensure paddocks are grazed out effectively.

On-off grazing is also worth considering.

Animal Performance

When turning stock out early, you need to consider animal performance.

Try not to turn out cattle unless sufficient grass is available to them to maintain target performance. It is worth noting that first rotation grass quality is not very high. Don’t just turn out animals because you are afraid of running out of silage.

If you are worried about silage stocks, consider adjusting your diets, with the inclusion of straw and concentrates. Silage is available, but make sure you have sourced high quality material before you decide to buy.

Slurry

Slurry is a valuable asset on any farm, and must be used wisely, given the price of bag fertiliser. Depending on who you ask, 1,000 gallons has an approximate value of 5N:5P:25K. This should be taken into account when calculating nutrient requirements for both grazing and Silage production. Try not to put too heavy a cover of slurry on ground, because it will leave grass less palatable and reduce intakes.

Fertiliser

Fertiliser application for grazing should be based on the nutrients required, bearing in mind any recent soil testing which you may have done. Any soil results should help you to decide on what fertiliser product to use. In general, in the peak growing season, a sward will require approximately one unit of nitrogen per day for grazing in a typical rotation.

Excessive nitrogen is wasteful, as it supplies cattle with too much protein in their diet, and they must use energy to excrete the excess. This reduces animal performance and reduces gain.

If you take out surplus paddocks containing excess nitrogen, they are difficult to wilt effectively, resulting in poor quality bales. Grass is the cheapest feed on farm, but providing excessive nitrogen to a sward is a waste.


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