Spring-calving dairy cows are now, for the most part, at peak production; maintaining grass quality during peak production is important.
Grazed grass provides most of the energy, protein and minerals required by cows during peak production.
The objective for this point of the grazing season is to have cows eating as much grass as possible. So, ensuring that high quality grass remains in front of the cows is important, reduced grass quality will have a negative effect on the milk cheque and feed bill.
Grazing heavy covers
Making cows graze covers that have gone too strong, will reduce milk yield and protein percentage.
Although the objective is to have cows eating as much grass as possible, forcing cows to eat heavy covers will actually reduce intakes, due to reduced digestibility.
The grass will also be of lower quality so will contain less energy per kg/dry matter (DM).
During the summer months cows should be on a 19-21 day grazing rotation, with a pre-grazing cover target of between 1,300-1,500kg/DM/ha, or approximately 10cms in height.
Options to maintain grass quality
One of the options farmers have to maintain grass quality is to increase the milking platform stocking rate; there are several ways that this can be achieved.
Farmers can increase the milking platform stocking rate by closing paddocks and cutting extra silage, or reseeding a poor preforming paddock(s).
Another option is to introduce the youngstock onto the platform to reduce the area milking cows are required to graze.
Further options include decreasing the level of concentrate supplementation – this will increase the amount DM intake from the cows.
If this is the option you choose, it is important to ensure that you adjust the mineral levels in your concentrates.
Finally, the removal of surplus grass as bales – this not only helps to improve grass quality on the farm but also increases the amount of winter feed that will be available on the farm.