Grazing & Forage Lessons from 2018

As we are in the midst of an extended spell of dry weather, looking back to the lessons learned from the 2018 drought is timely and worthwhile.

• Measuring and monitoring grass growth and covers has never been more important.
• By measuring, you will know if your current grazing area is growing sufficient grass to meet demand. You will also be able to plan grazing and cutting better once rain arrives.

o Retain paddocks previously earmarked for cutting, and strip graze.
o Consider pre-mowing ONLY if increased water demand can be met.
o Increase supplementation early to ensure grass covers are not driven down too far. Average Farm Cover should not drop below 2000.
o Increase the length of the grazing rotation. Grazing on a short round (or worse, set stocking) will result in the plant being grazed before it has time to replenish its energy reserves. Beware of increasing beyond a 30-day round as grass quality will deteriorate.

• Following the above points will prepare the farm to “bounce back” once rain arrives. There were huge differences in recovery rates between farms after the 2018 drought broke.
• Assess supplement purchases on quality first, then price. Maintaining output is critical, particularly at such an important time of year for spring calving herds. Take advice on the formulation of rations. Cake formulations may need to change, depending on the analysis of other supplements. Consider feeding forage in the paddock, to avoid the costs of slurry handling, and the risk of injury on slippery yards.
• Ensure high quality nutrition for youngstock. These are the future of your herd.
• Cull unproductive cows.
• Ensure your water supply is sufficient to meet the increased demand.

Don’t act on gut feel and rely on ‘hope’ to solve a deficit. Measure forage stocks and make decisions based on rational assumptions.  Contact tommalleson@fcgagric.com or your local FCG Office for an independent view on your options.

Posted in Business Management, Dairy & Forage, Sherborne.