Working with you to profit from grass

Published 23 August 10

Understanding the grass plant enables you to exploit to the fullest the cheapest forage, be it 10% or 100% of your cows diet. DairyCo's Grass+ has been developed to show you just what you can do.

Rodney Hooper, who farms at Lower Sessland Farm, Spreyton, only started dairy farming in July 2005. Previously he reared bull beef and kept suckler cows on the family farm, and was convinced that his grass management was already pretty good. "I've been farming since I left school, and I thought we were grazing fairly well," he says.

However, in February 2009, Rodney obtained DairyCo's new Grass+ publication, and has used it since to help transform his dairy system.

"Grass+ sat on the kitchen table for 12 months in constant use, and whenever we had a little disagreement over grass management we would refer back to it," says Rodney. In a very short time they had invested in new infrastructure, installing more water troughs, farm tracks and movable fencing, to enable them to make better use of pasture rotations. "We used to set stock fields and move the cows when they had finished the grass. But we have learnt so much about how grass grows and regrows after grazing - it is a lot more technical than you think."Rodney and Stuart Hooper

The family bought a plate meter to measure grass growth, and son Stuart now walks the 190-acre farm once a week, plotting grass availability on a computer graph. "We know exactly what our supply is, and what the cows' demand is, so we can plan a rotation and predict when we're going to have a surplus or a shortage of grass," he says. If a field is getting away from them, they cut it for silage instead of leaving the grass quality to deteriorate.

"We turn the cows out when there is 2800kg/ha of dry matter - and move them on when they have grazed it down to 1500kg/ha. By knowing how much the cows should eat we can calculate the correct area to fence off, so that each time we turn them out after milking they have fresh pasture to go to."

By managing the pasture better, grass quality has also improved. "We had it sampled in February and were amazed at how good the quality was, even that early in the year." The results showed an ME of 12.5MJ/kg, a D value of 79 and crude protein of 261g/kg.

Related Links & Publications