Heat and nitrogen boost grass growth suddenly

How quickly grass grows when temperatures rise. It’s not surprising, because most farmers had nitrogen boosting growth since the poor weather started in early April.

Farmers have reported growth rates of 100 Kg/DM/ha over the last week.

I walked farms on Monday and Tuesday and all had a grass surplus. One paddock was grazed last Tuesday week, and had 800kg of cover this Tuesday — eight days’ growth. If that growth rate continues, the paddock should be grazed again after 14 days, if grass quality is to be kept right.

The question on all these farms was: how much grass should they take out and bale?

As a rule of thumb, you need 10 days of grass ahead of you on any day. The issue was that during the poor weather growth was very poor and many paddocks had very similar covers when growth improved.

This has resulted in a large number of paddocks having the same, or very similar, covers now. But you can’t graze them all on the one day.

Feeding management of grazed grass

For some, amazingly, the ground has hardened.

Given perfect ground conditions for most farmers, what are ideal grazing covers?

Many factors need to be considered when identifying the ideal cover for your farm. Every farm is slightly different.

Take into account the stocking rate, paddock size, land conditions, soil fertility, weather conditions, growth rates achieved, and the time of year. Typically, however, covers between 1,200 and 1,500 kg of dry matter (DM) per hectare would be acceptable.

What are the consequences of grazing grass covers that are too high?

* Animals forced to graze high covers will have lower intakes, because they are more selective about what they graze.

* High covers have more stem, which means they have lower energy per kg of DM.

* Paddocks not grazed-out properly will produce poorer swards for the remainder of the grazing season.

* Animals will perform poorly on grass with a high stem percentage.

Grazing tips

* If stock fail to graze-out paddocks, you will need to top the stem and dung pats in order for the next rotation to have quality grass.

* Consider pre-mowing paddocks that include strong material and a lot of dung pats — it will increase intakes and grass utilisation.

* If you are practising a leader-follower grazing system, make sure the followers enter paddocks immediately after the leader group. If there is a day or two between groups, the followers will prefer to graze re-growths, damaging future rotation yields.

* Take out surplus paddocks, once you have identified them as surplus, so that they can re-enter the next rotation in sequence.

* Don’t skip nitrogen application — we are in the peak grass-growth period, so keep it growing.


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