Make hay... prepare ahead for good autumn grazing

We are overdue a fine autumn grazing period, we should be prepared.

Under normal circumstances, it is now time to start planning for setting the farm up for autumn grazing.

This will be a tough task this year on many farms, because there will be a lot of competition for grass between providing sufficient silage and grazing.

However, the grazing must get priority, even if some silage or other forage has to be purchased, or some stock sold.

Rotations should be held at 21 to 23 days for a while, and hopefully, there will be an opportunity to start lengthening them when we move past mid-August, in order to provide good autumn grazing.

If we get reasonable weather, well-managed autumn grass can provide a lot of very valuable feed, but in order to get the most benefit from it, planning has to begin in August.

In the unlikely event that there is surplus grass on the farm now, some paddocks should be taken out for silage, not left there to build up poor quality grass for autumn milk production.

Unfortunately, some land is still unfit for grazing or silage cutting.

The correct procedure should be followed for building up a supply of grass for autumn grazing from around mid-August. This procedure is to allow grass to build up by gradually lengthening the rotation from about 22 days in mid-August to 35 days in late September, on pastures that have been tightly grazed, or cut for silage, or topped — and treated with adequate nitrogen.

These pastures should get at least 50 units of nitrogen.

On wetter soils, care should be taken not to build up grass covers that cannot be grazed.

It is vitally important to manage the pastures in such a way as to optimise the quantity and quality of grazed grass for the remainder of the season.

We are overdue a fine autumn grazing period, and we should be prepared.

Milk prices look promising. Good autumn grazing management will reduce feed costs, labour requirements, housing and slurry storage requirements, and improve animal performance and profitability.

For those who are measuring grass, the aim should be to have an average farm cover of 1,000 kg/ha or 400 kg/cow, at a stocking rate of 2.5 cows/ha, in late September.

At that stage, some paddocks may be approaching pre-grazing covers of 2,000 kg/ha. Heavier covers can result in poor quality grass and significant losses of feed.

Contrary to some advice, it will pay to feed some concentrates with autumn grass, if your quota situation allows.

It will also pay to feed some supplements, if required, to build up sufficient grass for the autumn, because it pays to keep grass in the diet of cows for as long as possible.

Only feed the planned area every day.

Trials have shown that cereals are not a good supplement to autumn grass, because they both break down too quickly in the rumen.


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