Germinal Ireland technical development director Dr Mary McEvoy offers seven tips for end-of-season grassland management. These tips are intended for autumn before animals are moved indoors:
1. Keep track of covers
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.
2. Don't over-graze
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.
3. Strip wires and 12-hour breaks
Heavy covers can be grazed as conditions allow, using strip wires and 12-hour breaks where appropriate to increase utilisation.
4. Get a good clean-out
If the weather deteriorates and the 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.
5. Graze clover swards last
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.
6. Soil health crucial for grassland management
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 from causing too much damage to previously grazed areas.
7. Close 60% of grassland by 1 November
To optimise grass availability next spring, key dates to remember are aiming to have 60% of the farm closed by 1 November and grazing finished completely by the end of November. For heavier farms, these targets should be hit a week to ten days earlier.
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Reseeding: Grassland management