Grazing is still possible

As autumn has progressed in the north, grazing for many farmers has become a real challenge. Growth rates have been extremely variable from one week to the next. As a result, a number were unable to hit their grass cover targets for the start of the last rotation. On top of this, heavy rainstorms have saturated soils to field capacity, causing localised flooding in low areas and heavy soils lying with water.

But all is not lost. Following the tips below you should still be able to achieve some grazing days this year, provided you still have some grass left.

Extra grazing days are one key goal when grazing in the late autumn. The other is to set up the farm for spring turnout. To access whether you should continue grazing into November, you’ll need to quantify how much grass you have. Complete a farm walk, using a platemeter or other measuring method, and calculate the average farm cover.

When this is above 2100 kgDM/ha, you can afford to keep grazing some paddocks towards the top of the wedge. When below 2100 then you’re already sacrificing the potential of next spring, and it would be more beneficial to take all stock off your grazing platform.

On your farm walk take note of areas or paddocks which have 2 – 3 leaf grass and have good accessibility off tracks or roads. To gain a few extra grazing days now, these will be better to aim for if ground conditions are deteriorating; or they could be used to turn out to early next year.

Any paddocks which have been poorly grazed on your last few rotations will have high levels of wastage and be more likely to spoil if carrying higher covers through winter. Target these with low yielders or dry stock or possibly sheep to get the residual reset. DO NOT be tempted to repeat this across your whole grazing platform – this will sabotage any potential for an earlier turnout next year.

To hit residuals effectively, without creating too much soil damage, you should graze a lot of stock on a small area for a short time (contrary to the usual practise of a few stock on a large area for a long time!).

An on/off grazing strategy works well. Use temporary electric fences to create stocking density on a reduced area. For best results ensure stock have an edge on their appetite. Once the grass is gone and the first few are starting to lie down (usually within 3-4 hrs) bring the stock back off the land. Move the fencing onto the next area for tomorrow and repeat. This serves to protect the soil they’ve already been on and continues the tight stocking density each day until they have finished grazing the whole paddock.

Approach late autumn grazing with a mindset of flexibility to make the most of the opportunities.

LIC UK Pasture to Profit consultant Bess Jowsey

For specific advice on how these strategies might be implemented on your farm get in touch with Bess Jowsey by calling 07717 732324 or email her on bjowsey@liceurope.com.

by Katrina Younger
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