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Late Summer Grazing - How To Make The Most Of It

late summer grazing

Late Summer Grazing

How To Make the Most of Late Summer Grazing

Ideally, fresh calvers should be kept in completely, but if the weather is still favourable they can graze by day and should be kept in at night if higher yields are expected. The easiest and best way to do this is to feed for a targeted DMI from the buffer, say 60%, and allow 40% from grazing. Prepare the mix as though feeding 60% of the milking herd, in this way you know that the buffer feed ration is balanced and as cows start to consume more buffer then feed for more cows, not just increase the silage. In this way the cows will have a smooth transition from autumn to winter feeding. Whichever route is taken the key to success is to know the quality of the forages on offer, be it grazed grass or silage, so forage analysis is a critical tool along with assessing pasture covers.

Our range of Mole blends provide ultimate flexibility in balancing rations in the autumn as they can also be custom made to fit precise requirements on farm, for example if maize silage isn’t available until harvest, then a high starch Mole Boost HS blend can be mixed with grass silage to raise the overall starch level of the diet to mirror winter feeding levels. There are also options such as Mole Starch wheat or maize or crimped maize which can be used. Overall the aim should be to maximise milk yield and quality whilst optimising milk from forage, in this way margins will be improved and problems with fertility and poor milk quality can be avoided.

Late season grazing is always difficult to manage and ration for, if we get it wrong the effects are with us right through the winter period. Autumn grown grass does not lose its’ quality as fast as it does during the early and mid-season growth period. In fact, it remains more consistent, it is just the overall DM, the reducing day length and the effects of a long grazing season mean we don’t always reap the full potential from autumn grass.

Looking at what we will have to graze, we often have particularly ‘grassy’ autumns. This gives the illusion that there is more than enough to feed the cows. The problem is that as the quality, palatability and overall DM of the grass gradually falls, the symptoms of underfeeding and excessive body condition loss do not materialize now, but does show up after Christmas. This is when a rapid decline in milk quality and fertility is experienced, with the late summer calving cows failing to get back in calf on time. This happens so often as cows appear to be fi ne and happy out grazing in the autumn and as milk yields are generally good there appears to be no problem, but it is purely the excess protein in autumn grass that is giving this impression and the problems will surely come later.

Autumn grown grass, especially if planned, enables two objectives for dairy farmers. The first is to maximise the amount of grazed grass in the dairy cows’ diet, depending on calving date, to save on winter feed and housing costs. Every kg of grass DM consumed will save a kg of silage DM and provide spare protein in the diet.

The second objective is to ensure the farm is closed up correctly to have grass available for spring grazing. Each days’ delay in closing after October the 12th will result in the herd having less access to grass in early March. Every Kg DM/ha of grass left on paddocks in early November, will result in 1.6 Kg DM/ha available for grazing in spring, or a 60% increase and possible earlier turnout. Every farm will have its own end date for grazing, depending on soil type, but managed grass can extend grazing to the end of November for youngstock and even late lactation cows.

Cows can be housed by night to take the pressure off diminishing grazing, or be kept in on very wet days, or adopt a growing practice as in Ireland, of letting out for four hours grazing if the ground is sticky to avoid pasture damage. In the absence of paddocks, a back fence should be used as grazing for more than three days will reduce the regrowth by 30% through the winter.

The strategy for feeding this autumn, therefore, needs to be considered in line with expected performance levels and stage of lactation. This may necessitate splitting the herd to ensure fresh calvers have the best possible nutrition, whilst late lactation cows make the most of the autumn flush and can be kept out longer into the autumn/winter where ground conditions allow.



Source Details

Pete Isaac, Head of Field Sales

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