Autumn Grazing – management and closing targets

Friday 13.09.2019 , News

Once we get beyond mid-September, we are essentially at the beginning of the next grazing year and therefore, what happens on-farm over the next 2 months will influence the grass available next spring.

To avoid losing grass over the winter, as a result of dead material from poorly grazed fields in the final rotation, good grazing management now is critical. Good clean-out of swards now will make it easier to achieve good clean-out on the last rotation; especially if the weather turns against us.

Autumn Grazing

Depending on your stocking rate, your farm cover targets will differ. If highly stocked, you will have a big demand for grass next spring, and will therefore need to close a bit earlier. It is important to make a plan specific to your farm and use this plan to budget your grass through the autumn.

Most farms began to lengthen their rotation around the 10th to 15th of August with the aim of achieving the highest farm cover of approximately 450 kg DM/cow in mid to late September. If your cover per cow is much higher than this, then pre-grazing yields will be in excess of 2300 kg DM/ha in some fields, making them very difficult to graze out cleanly.

Closing date for spreading N and P passes

As of 15th of September, it is now too late to go out with Nitrogen (N) or Phosphorus (P). However, there are no restrictions on application rates or timing of application for Potassium (K).

The final grazing rotation

Early October is the optimum time to start closing the farm grazing platform; remembering 60% of the grass you have in spring will be grown between now and winter. The 60:40 rule states that 60% of the farm should be closed by the end of the 1st week of November and fully closed by late November or at closing, has a farm cover of 550-600 kg DM/ha for those stocked at 2.5 LU/ha; whichever comes first.

The target is to have a grazing residual of 3.5 to 4 cm to ensure light reaches the base of the sward and minimises tiller death over the winter. Again, if you are stocked higher, you will need a higher closing residual. The best advice is to monitor grass and farm cover in the autumn and close the farm when these targets are achieved.