With weather like this, it’s no wonder zero-grazing is popular

The weather continues to be a major factor in stock management.

Although we are halfway through May, grazing conditions are proving very difficult for some.

Grass supplies have tightened up around the country, and growth rates dropped off in the last two weeks.

After the excellent conditions of April, when growth was very good, we are currently experiencing below normal growth due to significant rainfall and colder weather.

Rainfall so far in May has been three to four times the normal rates in some parts of the country.

Take care of available grass

Don’t waste grass by grazing heavy covers.

Cattle will walk a lot of heavy covers into the ground, if it is not managed properly.

Consider strip grazing it, pre-mowing it, or perhaps zero-grazing it.

Pre-mowing should only be done when the grass is dry, to maximise clean-out of paddocks.

Zero-grazing has become a very popular option over the last few years, all over the country.

It ensures 100% utilisation of available grass, while reducing ground poaching and improving subsequent sward recovery.

Some beef units are looking at zero-grazing as a long term solution to reducing concentrate usage for finishers.

Good feeding management is critical when zero-grazing, in order to prevent acidosis from lush grass.

Long fibre must be available at all times for stock being zero-grazed.

Maintain performance and grass quality

Resist the temptation to leave stock have access to larger areas of land, because they will have a preference for re-growth, and will depress growth hugely on this area of land, reducing the overall grass supply.

If cattle are doing a lot of damage in larger groups, consider creating smaller groups, until the weather improves.

Growth recovery

It is a certainty that when temperatures rise, growth will improve again, rapidly.

Grazing paddocks may well provide surplus grass for silage quite quickly.

Take every opportunity to conserve silage for next winter.

Turning stock back out

If stock had to go back indoors, don’t delay returning them to grass, if ground conditions allow.

Take a walk around your farm, and assess grass availability and ground conditions.

Once growth, land conditions, and weather conditions have improved, a good rule of thumb is to return stock to grass when you have 10 days grazing ahead of you again.

This will obviously differ from farm to farm depending on land type, soil fertility and recent re-seeding policy.

Short of grass

For many, ground conditions are only OK, and grass supplies are low, so it is necessary to feed some silage or meal to slow down the rotation, until grass supplies improve.

Spring calved suckler cows and their calves require approximately 16 kg of dry matter from grass, per day.

Do the sums, and supplement according to requirements.

Introducing early creep feeding for calves (meal feeding, or forward creeping grass) will also help to stretch grass supplies, and can be eliminated gradually again, once grass supply is sufficient.

Remember that you now want to get these cows back in calf, and improving their energy status during this period, will improve the fertility status in the herd.

Don’t forget tetany defence.

Finishers

Bulls that are destined for heavy meal or ad-lib feeding for slaughter this summer or autumn should now be introduced to meal, even if grass is not in short supply.

These bulls need to be approximately 400-450 kg (live weight) before they are put indoors for their finishing period.

Some have already brought these animals back in, if they had been turned out. This decision is helping to increase available grass for silage or other stock.


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