Grass advice: Building begins for autumn

Grassland management in August has a huge impact on financial performance during the autumn period.

It is vital to carry out weekly grass walks, complete a grass budget to identify targets and check against these on a weekly basis – addressing any deficits and or surpluses that arise.

On northern farms, we will hit balance day in mid September so we must build up sufficient grass earlier, this takes planning and action now to ensure we meet our targets.

Poor growth rates, drop in milk production and feeding silage to stretch rotation length has resulted from the cold, wet weather we have experienced over the past two weeks in Tyrone and in many parts of the country.

The importance of having adequate feeding space for all cows at milking times cannot be stressed enough when heavy supplementation has to be introduced to slow down the rotation.

Luckily, silage quality is good but building grass for the autumn means that we must maintain this in the diet for at least another week to be on target with a 25 day rotation for early august.

Walking southern farms this week, there is a more positive atmosphere with growth rates between 50-65kgs; either at or just above current demand.

We know that covers above 600 grow the most grass, identify how much of your wedge is above this level (ie ½ or ¾ of the paddocks on platform) when projecting growth rates for august.

Mowing paddocks either before or after grazing will dramatically reduce growth rates so take this into account when considering target weekly covers.

The dry period experienced by many in the sunny south east has resulted in clumps in most paddocks now, caused by urine and dung patches actively growing during the drought, ensure cows work hard to clean these out as building covers in September and October on a dirty base will result in difficulty cleaning out paddocks fully and therefore lead to costly waste.

The same goes for youngstock ground, to stretch out their grazing period, rotation must be lengthened, although not to the same extent as the milking platform.

“What type of fertiliser will I use now?”

Soil sampling illustrates any infertility issues on farm, look back at the samples to identify what fertiliser would suit best to ‘limit your limiting factors’.

Fertiliser is well down in price, using a compound will increase growth rate response in comparison to straight Nitrogen – financially this means getting more kgsDM for less money.

Estimate growth response from fertiliser, do not buy fertiliser on a cost/tonne basis only.

Cheap fertiliser can be expensive if it grows less kgsDM. At this stage, it is important to complete an autumn budget to identify weekly grass targets from now until the end of the year.

This will easily show what growth rates we need to meet such targets and therefore you can assess how much fertiliser to apply.

On lowly stocked farms, building up too much grass too early can often be problematic because of low demand; this leads to heavy pre grazing covers and subsequently, difficulty in closing up enough of the platform within the first 30 days of closing in October.

The opposite can be the case for highly stocked farms.

Ensure you scan 30 days after bull has been removed, thus identifying empty cows that can be removed from the system when needs be, usually dependent on stocking rate and grass growth rates during building.

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