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To contact one of our “Forage for Profit” team, call the Seed Office on 01769 576232
or Graham Ragg on 07798 583667
or email info@molevalleyfarmers.com.

Spring Turnout

By now action should have been taken to make the best use of your grazing and forage acreage this year. It’s too late in the middle of April when the cows are about to be turned out; a lot of planning should be done before then; especially for those who are in an NVZ. Consider the time and effort put into planning, preparing and balancing winter feed rations and monitoring performance. We should be doing the same before and during the grazing season, but all too often it’s seen as a bit of a holiday from all that watching and analysing, though in the long run we are doing our cows no favours, nor our bottom line.

So where to begin?

Well the first areas to look at are:

  • Measure the cover on each field/paddock and work out a grazing/fertiliser plan based on cover recorded
  • If some fields/paddocks are already well covered, get cows or other stock out on to them and bring back under control
  • Think about the transition time in moving from winter feeding to summer grazing and gradually increasing grass intakes
  • Check water supply to each field/paddock and assess how it could be made easier for animals to drink
  • Assess cow tracks and routes to grazing, improving them where necessary
  • Analyse a grazing grass sample to get an idea of quality
  • Plan to replace any worn out, poached or weed infested, (including weed grasses) pastures

Cows that aren’t already out to grass should be now for part of the day, as the aim of the best grassland managers is to complete one full grazing rotation by the end of April. Grass grazed in February/March grows with more vigour in April/May as it is still young with an aggressive growth habit. Grazing utilisation and animal production will be better by using this strategy.

When there is sufficient grass the cows need to go out with an edge to their appetite if they are to graze immediately and properly without waste. Turn out as soon as possible after morning milking when typically the cows will have been without food for about 2-3 hours. Cows out for 3-4 hours per day on good covers can eat 4-5kg grass DM, and cows out all day (between milkings) can eat 6-10kg grass DM. If you are not already on one, changing to a digestible fibre based concentrate will also aid grass DM intakes as opposed to high starch concentrates. With grazed grass still at half the cost of conserved forage it pays to look at where better use of grazing can be made, whatever your system or herd genetic profile.
 
Grazed grass is only cheap, and more importantly cost effective, if utilised at its most nutritious stage. If not, that cost rises to nearer the cost of conserved forage, because of wastage and inefficient use.
 

 



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