Video: Using on-off grazing to get cows out to grass

After a period of wet weather, grazing conditions on many farms are challenging and many farmers are still struggling to get cows out to grass full-time.

Each extra day at grass is worth €2.70/cow/day and so the financial rewards of getting dairy cows out to grass should not be underestimated.

To maximise the use of grass in the cow’s diet and, in turn, increase the profitability of dairy enterprises, Teagasc recommends the use of on-off grazing during wet weather conditions.

According to Teagasc, it is an excellent way to allocate grass to cows during inclement weather conditions.

Two bouts of three-hour grazings after morning and evening milking, provided adequate grass is provided, can eliminate the need to supplement cows with silage while indoors.

On-off grazing is a very simple tool and takes advantage of the cow’s natural ability to graze, according to Dr Michael Egan.

Egan, a Teagasc Grassland Research Officer, explained that it allows farmers to get cows out to grass for some proportion of the day to consume as much grass as possible.

Video: The role of on-off grazing during difficult conditions

Benefits of getting cows out to grass

Egan touched on the benefits of getting cows out to grass as early as possible.

He said that the quality of spring grass is far in excess of what is available from silage, as quality spring grass can have a Crude Protein content of 25-28% and a DMD value of 80-84%.

The benefit that you can get from having a couple of hours or a couple of kilos of intake of high-quality spring grass will pay dividends, in terms of what is going into the tank and what you get paid for.

“I know it can be quite difficult in terms of workload, having to put your cows out for three hours and then bringing them back in again, but it does pay off in terms of increased milk production,” he said.

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