Autumn grass is very valuable, and should be kept in the cow’s diet for as long as possible.
However, early spring grass is much more valuable than autumn grass, and care has to be taken in autumn to maximise the availability of early spring grass.
Grazing pastures after late October can reduce grass availability in February and March as much as 50%.
Pastures selected for the earliest spring grazing should generally be grazed early in the last rotation which should begin around now, but earlier on heavy land.
This should result in a nice green pasture during the winter, which encourages very early growth.
Therefore, preparation for early spring grass should begin now.
The main objectives of autumn grassland management are to maximise the amount of high quality grass in the cow’s diet for as long as possible and have all paddocks in good shape facing into winter.
The target on reasonably good soils is to have 60% of the farm closed off by early November and the remainder grazed off before housing.
This should result in a target cover of 220kg DM per LU or 550kg DM/ha at SR of 2.5 LU/ha at closing. Good grassland managers should use their experience to alter these targets to suit their own situation and soil type.
The first essential is to have the soil fertility up to standard. Of course, adequate reseeding is necessary, but it is too late to do anything about that this year.
If you have any doubt about soil fertility, get soil samples taken immediately, while there is still time to get deficiencies corrected.
Adequate fertility over the winter is essential for early spring grass. Soil damage will reduce early spring grass production. Good grazing facilities with roadways and multiple entrances and back fencing will be a great help to minimise poaching. Every effort should be made to graze paddocks out well in the last grazing. The target cover in early October is about 400 kg of dry matter per cow.
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