Autumn grazing targets: Are you on track or falling behind?

August is the month where attentions turn to building covers in order to extend the grazing season into the back end.

And, as well as that, it is also of importance so that there is grass for cows at turnout next spring. Grass growth has been, unusually, very good for the time of year and it has left many farms in a good position to build covers.

The wet weather over the last few days will have been a bit of a setback for some farmers who are ahead of target and were hoping to take out excess paddocks.

In general, farms are in a good place when it comes to grass and hitting targets for the autumn period shouldn’t be too much of an issue, with the way growth rates are at the minute.

In some cases, farms have too much grass, which can pose its own problems, in terms of maintaining quality and achieving good cleanouts.

If we take a look at the target average cover/cow, set out by Teagasc, at a stocking rate of three cows/ha, we can see that, by mid-August, farmers should have hit a cover/cow of 250kg DM/ha.

The figures (below) are the Teagasc target average cover/cow, at a stocking rate of three cows/ha.

  • August 15 –  250kg DM/ha;
  • September 1 – 330kg DM/ha;
  • September 15 – 370kg DM/ha;
  • October 1 – 380kg DM/ha;
  • November 1 – 60% of your grazing platform should be closed at this stage.

For farms that are stocked at 2.5 cows/ha, a target cover/cow of 200kg DM/ha should have been hit by mid-August according to Teagasc, while farms stocked at 3.5 cows/ha should have been targeting a cover/cow of 220kg DM/ha.

The only way you will know if you are hitting targets is if you are measuring grass. Only then will you know if you are going to be in a good position going into the latter part of the grazing season.

Achieving target covers

A rotation length target of approximately 25 days should be maintained in the month of August. This should be increased to between 30 and 35 days from about September onwards.

For any farms that are falling behind, now is the time to make use of the high growth rates at present before it’s too late. 

If you are struggling to build covers, another option is to reduce the demand on the farm. This can be done through selling off empty cows, cows which are performing poorly or removing any young stock from the platform.

Finally, it is important to continue spreading nitrogen (N) – while staying within your limits – along with continuing to reach target residuals of 4cm.