For most of October warm and dry weather has resulted in abnormally high grass growth. Growth rates have ranged from 20-40kg DM/ha/day in the second half of October, although in recent days wet weather has created very challenging conditions. Making the most of this year’s conditions through careful management helps both the end of this year’s grazing season and grass availability next spring.
Germinal’s Technical Development Manager, Dr Mary McEvoy, offers advice on how to manage the next couple of weeks before animals are moved indoors:
As conditions become more challenging continued attention on grass covers is important. Keep track of covers by walking the farm and finish grazing when your farm’s target cover is reached. Don’t be tempted to keep cows out even if conditions are favourable. Over-grazing now jeopardises grass availability next spring when it’s far more valuable to you. Heavy covers can be grazed as conditions allow using strip wires and 12-hour breaks where appropriate to increase utilisation. If the weather deteriorates and ground becomes wet, consider grazing lighter covers to achieve the required utilisation and clean out. Good clean out reduces the risk of dead grass building up over winter.
Plan to graze fields containing clover-rich swards later in the final rotation. This allows more light to reach the base of the sward during winter which will aid the persistency of your clover.
Protecting your soil is also important when grazing is extended well into autumn. Try to reduce poaching by using multiple access points and water troughs in paddocks. Back-fencing can also help prevent stock causing too much damage on previously grazed areas.
To optimise grass availability next spring, key dates to remember are aiming to have 60% of the farm closed by 1st November and grazing finished completely by the end of the November. For heavier farms, these targets should be hit a week to ten days earlier.