Advice for dairy farmers: Graze ASAP to thicken up new grass reseeds

It takes about 11 months for a new sward to establish.

Management of the new sward in this period is vital for its long-term performance. The key to this is to ensure that the reseed thickens up as quickly as possible after sowing.

The grass seed will quickly grow a main tiller.

Nip that tiller off and promote the development of a crown of 15-20 tillers as quickly as possible.

Therefore, grass seedlings should be grazed as soon as the seedlings are strong enough to withstand grazing.

This is the stage at which they do not easily uproot from the soil when grazed (usually four to six weeks after sowing).

Target a pre-grazing cover of between 800 and 1,000kg DM/ha for the first grazing.

The first grazing does not have to be with the main grazing herd.

Calves or young stock may be a better option, particularly in the autumn under poorer grazing conditions.

The risk with autumn sowing is that if the weather deteriorates, and heavy covers are carried over winter, the new grass can deteriorate, through tiller loss, shading and leaf death.

Docks and chickweed are best controlled at the seedling stage, and this is achieved by applying a herbicide before the first grazing.

Soil fertility

The first priority when considering investing in soil fertility (lime, P and K) is to determine the current pH, P and K levels. Autumn is a good time to soil sample your farm. Once you have results, you should start correcting soil pH through application of lime.

Lime and K can be applied at any time of the year, but yesterday, September 14, was the last day for nitrogen (N) and P applications. Phosphorus (P) is very important for early spring grass. Fertilisers such as 0-7-30, 0-10-2, 18-6-12, 10-10-20, 16% P (Super P), or 50% K (MOP) are ideal for building/supplying P and K.

Grazing covers

A peak farm cover of greater than 1,200kg DM/ha is not advised.

Otherwise, cows will be grazing covers in excess of 2,000kg DM/ha, which will have a negative effect on graze-out of paddocks, with a lot of dead material remaining in the sward.

Grazing cover targets for September 30 range from 1,000 to 1,200 kg DM/ha , from 2.5 to 3.0 cows/ha.

If farm cover is below target at any stage, take quick action to bring it back on course.

For example, introduce a higher level of concentrate, introduce silage, or remove surplus stock.

It is important to graze down to a residual of 4-4.5cm in the autumn to stimulate growth and avoid the carry over of dead material over the winter and into next spring.


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