Expert view: Andre van Barneveld, going forward in a difficult grazing year

Published 19 September 18

In a year that keeps on taking, focusing on autumn pasture management is key for a successful start to the 2019 grazing season. Having good pasture management now will pay dividends by maximising production from pasture during the autumn while setting up the farm with an ideal pasture wedge for spring.

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This message was delivered by dairy consultant, Andre Van Barneveld from Graise Consultancy, as he discussed how the 2019 grazing season starts now during a series of AHDB’s grow more, graze more, earn more meetings. 

As we look forward towards the end of autumn, remember that a long final rotation will result in a steep wedge, while a short rotation results in a flat wedge (Figure 1).

Andre said: “The ideal scenario is to have a flat wedge of grass in the spring where your lowest covers are 2,000 kg dry matter per hectare (DM/ha) and the highest covers don’t exceed 3,000 kg DM/ha.”

 

Higher covers (>3,200 kg DM/ha) require a higher stocking rate to reach the desired residual (1,500 kg DM/ha) and increase the risk of soil damage and decrease utilisation rate. Above-optimum covers will contain more long grass, and therefore more fibre, lowering both palatability and pasture quality, which negatively affects intake and residuals. Avoiding long grass and high pasture covers is the key to success.

Expert View 1

Figure 1. Flat wedge of grass desired for spring 

In an ideal world, to achieve closing pasture cover targets (2,400 -2,500 kg DM/ha), aim to start the last rotation around the 10 October and finish 15 - 20 November. Only allow average farm cover (AFC) to lift if you are certain a herd’s pasture demand will be well above growth rates in October so that you can get covers back down.

Ensure all covers > 3,000 kg DM/ha are all grazed in October, especially if wet soils are a risk, and aim to have more than 60 per cent of the grazing platform grazed in October. It is too much of a risk to take higher covers into November, as grazing conditions could deteriorate.

Andre explained: “Long covers take more time to recover from grazing and if left very late, they go into winter with decomposing clumps at the bottom of the sward. This increases the risk of entering spring with no cover available for the first rotation. Lower covers recover quicker following grazing and then carry through the winter better.”

The target AFC for full housing should be around 2,150-2,200 kg DM/ha on the 20 November, to avoid too long or short covers in spring making management challenging.

Andre said: “If soil temperatures stay up through October and November, as they would often do following a drought, compensatory growth is very likely.”

Aim to take pressure off winter forage supply by stretching out the grazing season longer than usual and graze covers down below the usual recommended 2,500 kg DM/ha, to 2,100 kg DM/ha dropping AFC down as low as 1,900-2,000 kg DM/ha on 20 November. Don’t be tempted to keep grazing if winter growth is still going as the risk is too high and you might be left with no grass for spring turn out. Plan ahead on how to deal with high growth rates (>50 kg DM/ha/day) in the autumn. Autumn calvers could be turned back out during the day to keep on top of grass growth.

Andre said: “This means we have a little bit more of a flat wedge coming into spring with lower covers, but these covers will be easier to manage than higher covers in the spring.”

An AFC above 2,500 kg DM/ha in the spring means a lot of grass will be sitting on the grazing platform and both grass utilisation and recovery will suffer. At turnout in spring 2019, avoid grazing the paddocks at the top of the wedge and graze 2,400-2,600 kg DM/ha covers instead (Figure 1). Optimum spring covers will allow target residuals to be achieved easier and pasture to recover quicker, resulting in more high-quality growth.

Andre concluded: “Your pasture management this autumn will determine grass availability, quality and intakes next year and with every extra tonne of grass grazed increasing profit by £334 per hectare, can you afford not to be ready for the next grazing season?”

For more details about the meetings and on how to move forward following the agricultural drought listen back to our podcast here.