Herd feed demand in the spring rotation

Spring grazing must strike a balance between feeding the herd well and setting up the sward for the next rotation, according to Teagasc.

There are four main objectives to be met, it said: firstly graze the correct amount of area each week; secondly graze out swards to the correct height (3.5-4cm); thirdly ensure cows are on a rising plane of energy intake; and, fourthly include enough forage fibre in the diet.

According to the latest advice from Teagasc, graze one third of the milking platform area by early March, or about one per cent per day, rising to 1.5 per cent each week through February. Another one third should be completed by March 17.

“These area targets hold for spring and winter calving herds alike. Start with lower covers (8-900kg DM/ha) for a few days to settle cows into grazing.”

It said the daily grass allowance will depend on herd demand.

“Spring calving herds at lower stocking rates may be able to offer up to 13kg DM of grass per day from mid-February.”

It also noted that forage supplementation may be needed for herds with higher daily demand.

“Aim for at least 12kg DM total forage intake (grass and silage combined). Minimum grass allowance per grazing bout is 5kg DM. On a high grass diet, 2-4kg of concentrate is adequate for spring calving herds. Increase by 1kg where silage is fed. High energy rations work best – high crude protein rations are not necessary.”