In this article, CAFRE’s Richard Gibson looks at 11 measures that you can include in your summer grazing plan.
Maintaining grass quality through the summer is critically important, and you will be required to intervene.
Grass growth rates of more than 70 kg DM/ha/day will result in surplus grass on the grazing block.
Stocked at 3.5 cows per hectare, grass demand will be 56 kg DM per hectare. This will leave a surplus that you must manage to maintain quality.
In most circumstances, getting in early to remove heavy grass covers or addressing soil nutrient imbalance can pay dividends with improved grass growth and utilisation.
Summer Grazing Plan
Measures that you can adapt to the summer grazing plan include:
- Pre-mowing – Cut the grass a day before grazing and let the cows pick up the wilted forage. You can achieve the best results when a disc mower without a conditioner cuts the grass. This can lower the post-grazing cover, removing any unwanted stem at the base of the plant.
- Alternate grazing and cutting – cutting all grazing paddocks at least once during the season leaves a clean sward with an even regrowth. It will improve grass utilisation and cow performance throughout the season.
- Topping – after the second grazing rotation, top paddocks if there is an accumulation of hard material and poor-quality grass around dung pats. This will improve the quality of the regrowth. Set the topper to cut grass at a height of 5-6 cm. Carry out topping immediately after cows are removed from a grazing area, as a later topping will check the regrowth. Research has shown that topped swards will improve yield by 1.2 litres/cow/day in mid to late season, compared to swards that you have not topped.
- Applying farm slurry with LESS will help address any soil P and K imbalances. Compound fertiliser may also be required to replace nutrient off-take, especially at higher stocking rates.
- Leader/follower – This enables higher yielding cows to achieve higher grass intakes and milk yields. Allow them to eat the leafy portion of the sward, while dry stock can follow on the residual. The key issue with this approach is the time required to return the area back into the grazing rotation.
- Infrastructure improvements, less back grazing, improved paddock access, accurate grass allocation and sufficient water availability in each grazing area will help grow and utilise more grass.