Advice for beef farmers: Grass is too much of a good thing

Despite the recent cold and wet weather, many farms are approaching a grass surplus on their grazing platform.

The cold spell has finally passed, and temperatures have increased significantly.

Growth while not yet at peak is at 65kg per day in many areas around the country.

When growth accelerates like this, grass can be difficult to manage.

Don’t get me wrong; it is a quality problem to have surplus, given the spring we have just had.

Realising when you have too much grass is critical, in order to take corrective action.

A surplus of grass on a beef farm, if not managed correctly, can significantly reduce animal performance. Poor utilisation of grass has a huge knock-on effect on animal performance.

Strong grass is wasted by animals trampling on it, and this grass is also much lower in energy and digestibility. Not to mention the poor quality of the next round of grazing, if it is not topped or grazed out properly.

Taking out surplus grass

It is critical that you get a handle on grass quality sooner rather than later, to optimise performance from grass. 

If you begin to take out surplus grass quickly, then you will be amazed how much silage you might gather from your grazing platform.

It is important that strong paddocks are skipped and put in the pit or wrapped, once they are identified as surplus, while continuing to fertilise and grow grass while it will grow.

Efficient gain from grass

Current grass quality is excellent, with high dry matter and very good utilisation.

If grass quality is deteriorating, then you need to address it immediately.

* Don’t reduce fertiliser use below recommended rates for your rotation length.

Reducing fertiliser applications in order to reduce growth is never a good idea. Grow grass when it will grow, and take advantage of ideal growing conditions.

* If you regularly need to take out surplus paddocks, keep nitrogen application at one unit per day; this will ensure preservation is successfully achieved in bales and pit.

* Try not to hold back several fields/paddocks for wrapping on one day — they will all be ready for grazing at the one time in the next rotation, leading to another surplus.

* If your grass quality is poor, or you have a deficit, then you may well need to feed meal, in order to achieve target weight gains.

* If you don’t feed cattle during a period of energy deficit, it will be very hard for them to catch up to targets.

Zero grazing for beef

Zero grazing is becoming more common in beef production, but it really does require careful management.

* Feeding some additional structural fibre is critical. Zero grazed grass alone can induce severe acidosisn leading to lameness and scouring, if not balanced correctly.

* Try to feed fresh cut grass in the afternoon in order to harness the full potential of the grass when it is highest in dry matter and sugars.

* Any supplement fed with zero grazed grass must be rumen friendly, in order to complement the grass. No additional protein is required.

* Cattle on zero grazed grass will need regular dosing, even though they are not outdoors.

Minerals for suckler cows

Continue to supplement cows with a mineral lick while on grass, to deliver sufficient magnesium, as well as essential minerals and vitamins to aid reproduction.

I have noticed that suckler cows are taking in much more magnesium lick since growth and temperatures increased.

It is important to keep buckets in front of them; the later calvers will benefit in particular.

Supplementation with minerals improve grass utilisation.


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