Dry period grazing

Published 19 July 13

  • It is imperative to get the grazing round correct. It is vital that the swards cows are put into have got full growth on the third leaf. This leaf has 45% of the plant yield so if we go in too early then, by default, we reduce grass supply. If you haven’t already, lengthen your grazing round.
  • With a growth rate of 40kg DM/day it will take 32 days to get from 1,500kg residual to 2,800kg DM/day entry cover – that is your round.
  • If you don’t have a plate meter to measure grass growth, count the leaves on the grass plant. Each leaf appears at the same rate. Take a look at the grass plants in a paddock that was grazed 10 days ago. How much has regrown? If there is just one full leaf then leaf appearance is 10 days, so to get to three leaves will be another 20 days. Check it again next week just in case growth has slowed again.
  • To slow the round, and make sure you get that important third leaf, you may have to bring in silage aftermaths, or decrease the amount allocated so a field does three feeds instead of two. In this case you will have to buffer feed to make up the quantity.
  • Now is the time to do feed budgets and see what your stocks look like,  then plan and act. (link to  Chapter 7 Feeding+)
  • Look at the financial budget as well; is there room to buy in feed / forage replacers if they are necessary? It’s better to speak to the bank now rather than later.
  • Pre mow and wilt; you will then fully utilise what you have and it helps by lengthening the round. (link to article).
  • Watch body condition score to make sure that cows do not suffer if you are short. If they do, you are storing up problems for the future.
  • Watch heifers. If grass supplies reduce do not compromise on heifer growth rates. They are the future of your herd so make sure you maintain growth to avoid future problems.
  • Do not hammer paddocks. When rain does come those paddocks that have not been abused will come back more quickly.
  • If the dry period continues, ask yourself if you are carrying any underperforming stock? If there are some passengers, don’t let them waste your forage stocks.

Which paddocks are performing? Grass is under pressure at the moment so any paddocks that have given up or are falling well behind may need to be reseeded. It won’t really help you much this season, but may well help you next.