Reduce grass to cows now to extend grazing seasonWednesday 09 May 2012
It is better to reduce grass to the cows now to extend the grazing season grass allocation and offer supplements, said Dr John Roche of Dairy NZ speaking at a recent DairyCo discussion group in Gloucestershire.
“This will allow grass to recover and reduce problems later in the season,” he said. “If you've had heavy rain and the paddock looks poached up, don't panic. In reality if the grass root is still in the ground and there is plenty of moisture the grass should come back pretty well. Give it a week, see how things are and maybe then think about doing something later in the season,” he advised.
“If you find yourself with a hole in your grazing wedge because land had been taken out for silage earlier in the season it is important to remember that the three leaf rule is crucial and not to get tempted to enter paddocks too early.
“With a lower stocking rate it is harder to manage the three leaf stage,” explained Dr Roche. “You can either get tempted to go in too early to keep on top of things or wait until the three leaf stage to enter a pasture, and the grass can get away from you. You won't leave the right residuals (1500) and canopy closure will happen faster. A higher stocking rate means many of these decisions are made for you.
Provided soil temperatures are the same, Dr Roche said that each leaf on the grass plant should appear at the same rate, “but if you are going in at the two leaf stage you could be reducing potential pasture grown by 15-20%,” he said, explaining that 50% of the pasture is grown at the third leaf stage.
“A longer rotation means more grass by default. You are allowing the grass time to grow that valuable third leaf.
“Walk the pasture, pull out a few plants and check leaf emergence. Use it as another piece of information about your grazing,” he suggested.
Ways to graze fields better in order to reduce poaching
- Graze from the far side of the field first. That way cows never walk over bare ground, where they will do most damage.
- Don’t feed buffer before the cows go out. Let the cows go out hungry, let them concentrate on eating and then get them in afterwards if you need to.
- Remember how much water there is already in cows’ feed when there are wet conditions, and bear this in mind when looking at access to water trough. One farmer at the group said his cows had drunk an average of 4 litres of water the day before (a very wet day) and 48 litres the day before that.
- Think about a sacrifice track – it doesn’t have to be that wide as cows will walk in single file. It may take a bit more time when they are coming in for milking but it is worth it.