Grass management: How much of the grazing platform should I have closed by now?

Autumn is an important time of year for grassland management on dairy farms. The objective is to keep grass in the milking cows’ diet for as long as possible.

Due to the dry weather experienced this autumn – in many parts of the country – grazing conditions have been favourable on most farms.

Grazing decisions made during this time will influence the quantity and quality of grass next spring. So it important that you get grassland management correct.

Using management tools such as an autumn rotation planner can be very useful. In essence, this sets the farm up to be rotationally grazed from early October until housing, which – this year – is likely to be later compared to last year due to the better grazing conditions.

To ensure high-quality grass next spring, paddocks should be grazed to a target height of between 4cm and 5cm, as this will encourage a re-growth of high digestibility.

Closing targets

By the beginning of November, the aim is to have 60-70% of the farm grazed. The temptation to re-graze areas that have been closed should be avoided.

This grass that will be available early next year will be an asset – particularly for spring calving herds, as this is a period of high feed demand.

Also Read: Grass growth: Should I graze closed up paddocks?

An adequate average farm cover (AFC) should be left on the grazing area.

Typically, farms operating a spring-calving system – with a stocking rate of 2.5LU/ha – should target to have an AFC at the beginning of November of 700-800kg of DM/ha and a closing AFC (at housing) of 550-650kg of DM/ha.