Why the growing interest in zero grazing?

Thursday 06.01.2022 , News

There has been growing interest in zero grazing over the last few years, with many farmers using it during the shoulders of the season or throughout the grazing season on fragmented farms.

While grazed grass remains the cheapest forage available, there are pros and cons to zero grazing which should be assessed and considered on an individual basis.

What is zero grazing?

Zero grazing is a dairy farming system where fresh grass is cut and brought to housed cattle. This system allows farmers to bring nutritious grass from fragmented grassland to feed cattle.

Zero grazing benefits

  • Increased grass utilisation – as no selection by the cow
  • Flexibility on wetter farms, potentially allowing grass in the diet earlier in the season
  • Increased access to grass – such as fields that are too difficult or far away for cows to walk to
  • Consistent grass residuals across the season
  • Higher animal performance compared to grass silage

The challenges

  • Higher costs over grazing including capital investment for machinery, fuel and wear and tear, or contractor charges for feeding the grass to cows
  • Daily variation in DM content and dry matter intake can impact animal performance
  • Cut grass will spoil and must be consumed within 12-18 hours ideally
  • Increased cost of slurry storage, handling and spreading compared to grazing system
  • Feed space requirements (2 ft/head) are large and all animals should be able to access feed at the one time
  • Greater labour demand

Ask a grassland expert