A second bite of the cherry

Published 7 June 13

Second bite of the cherry post first cut

Piers Badnell, DairyCo extension officer, talks about capitalising on valuable regrowth.

The post cut aftermath does give a second bite of the cherry in terms of grazing as you have a good residual, no rejection sites and good quality regrowth.

However as it was all cut at the same time the grass will all grow back at the same rate. If left to graze until three leaves (the 2,800kg of DM/ha sort of cover) the first couple of grazings will be fine but then the rest will get away from you and quality will suffer, especially as growth rates are very good this time of year. What can you do about this?

  • Get in early. Start your first allocation at 2 leaves and (maybe at 1.5, which is not good practice long term but as a one off will not have a detrimental effect). This gives you time to get across the rest of the grass before it gets away from you, and allows you to build up to the last allocation at three leaves, 2,800kg/DM
  • It is important to get the grazing pressure right so that the cows graze down hard to the residual left by the mower. Silage making has given you that residual so we need to make use of it and not waste it. Use that residual to make sure the cows graze a high leaf to stem ration so that they are consuming 12ME grass
  • Work out the amount you want the cows to have and allocate the correct area. Letting cows choose and leave bits only hits quality in subsequent rounds
  • At the moment growth rates are 60 - 100kg DM/ha/day, depending where you are, so it may only take 7 -10 days for an aftermath to be at the 1.5 - 2 leaves, the point at which to start the allocation. At 100kg a day growth much more than 10 days could see grass getting too far ahead
  • Do not turn cows in after lifting silage straight away to "clear up". All this will do is delay regrowth by a week or two. The first leaf is powered by a sugar store in the base of the plant and if you graze too early, i.e. as soon as this first lime green leaf is out, the sugar store is used up and the plant has to depend on photo synthesising off the stem, delaying regrowth
  • If there is that much left uncut in the field during silage making clear obstructions so the mower can get into the corners etc. If there is still too much left in the field after lifting the mower man has left too much. Get a better tractor driver!
  • In future years it does sometimes pay, if possible, to do an earlier cut of first cut or a proportion of the first cut (about 15%) that is going to end up as grazing. This means that once the bulk of first cut is done you have some regrowth there already from the earlier cut area. This does work well but you will have to look at the logistics and planning
  • Most of the country is dry at the moment so we have the advantage that it will be easier for the cow to get that residual - don't waste this opportunity.

The aftermaths, if grazed well and at the right stage, will be excellent and utilisation should be very good as there are no rejection sites. Capitalise on this valuable and profitable regrowth.