Deferred grazing

Published 30 August 13

Deferred grazing can reduce winter costs

Shutting up land now to use for deferred grazing to feed youngstock and dry cows over the winter can reduce feed and housing costs dramatically, says Piers Badnell, DairyCo extension officer.

“With silage costing two to three times more than grazing and with housing cost anywhere between £0.50 and £1.70 a day for cows, and £0.50 a day for heifers, there are savings to be made.  But it’s important to understand what deferred grazing can provide nutritionally” says Piers Badnell. To achieve live weight gains (LWG) of 0.8kg per day plus maintenance of a 200kg, heifers will require an average of 50MJ per day. To supply this energy, she will need to consume 4.54kg DM per day.

“From November onwards grass dry matter can range from 18 – 19% in dry conditions, to 14 - 15% on wet days. We can measure and calculate the amount of dry matter available to heifers by using the allocation area and plate metering to calculate entry covers and residuals. Remember, calculations are not real life, so it is crucial to monitor what you do, how much cows are eating and the quality of the grass (send off a grass analysis to get an accurate picture).

 “Monitor animal growth and performance and supplement if necessary. Deferred grazing will most likely do much more than you expect, so question yourself before going to  concentrate, do they need it and if so how much,” Piers concludes.

 Deferred grazing action list

  • Shut up parcels of grazing land from the end of August/beginning of September ready to graze mid-November.
  • Graze in small groups to help reduce damage to soil.
  • In some cases there may be an impact on next season’s early grazing. Take this into account when deciding which areas to use and, if possible, think about using ‘sacrifice’ pasture that is due to be reseeded in spring.
  • When grazing on a slope, always graze from the top down.
  • Grass quality will depend on weather conditions this autumn but always monitor growth rates and add extra feed if necessary.
  • Be aware that in harsh, wet and windy conditions a heifer’s maintenance energy requirements will be greater, so keep an eye on conditions and how exposed the site is.
  • Be flexible in your approach to deferred grazing, as autumn grass growths can vary hugely.

 Come and hear more about outwintering at the DairyCo Research Day on 11 September.