Winter housing is under way, but many farmers still have heavy grass covers that need to be nipped off.

Although ground conditions will limit grazing options, farmers are looking to use as much of this grass as possible.

Where ground conditions are holding up and grazing is still possible, outlined are some options to keep cattle at grass to the end of October.

1. Use spring-born weanlings to finish out the season

Make greater use of lighter cattle, such as spring-born weanlings, to finish out the last rotation and limit the risk of poaching.

Cows, finishing cattle and heavier stores should be housed if ground is soft.

Ideally, opt to graze heifer weanlings first. The next group to make use of is weanling steers. Both groups should ideally have animals around the 280kg to 340kg mark.

Male calves destined for finishing as young bulls should not be used to finish out the grazing season in late October.

Grass dry matter will be low and so will feed value. Bull calves destined for finishing will have a higher weight gain on silage and concentrate.

Keeping bull calves at grass to late October or early November will delay finishing date next spring.

2. On-off grazing

Where paddocks surrounding the yard have a good cover of grass, there is always an option for using on-off grazing.

This means letting hungry calves and weanlings out to grass in the morning and rehousing them in the afternoon.

The first couple of days can test the patience, especially if there is a lack of fencing and laneways for moving stock.

But after a couple of days, calves will be used to moving outside and coming back in to the shed again.

At this point, calves will normally move in and out freely. Offering meals to entice calves to move will make it easier.

3. Maiden or in-calf heifers

If ground conditions permit, the other group of cattle that could be used to finish out the grazing season is maiden or in-calf heifers. Grazing in-calf heifers will help keep them fit.

These groups are likely to be small in number and can be grazed a single group, or split in two, as means of protecting ground.

4. Strip grazing or 24-hour allocations

Time is running out on grazing, so don’t try to graze every paddock tight to the ground. The aim should be to nip off the bulk of the cover in order to reduce dead grass accumulating over winter.

Strip grazing with fresh grass given every day will see cattle moving through covers quickly. Use a back fence if necessary to protect grazed areas.

Alternatively, split paddocks to give a daily grass allocation. Moving animals on to the next grazing will see animals nipping off the bulk of grass covers.

5. Sheep

On farms with sheep, there should be no issue managing heavy covers, as ewes can clean up swards.

But if the farm is a cattle-only enterprise, it may be worth talking to a neighbouring sheep farmer about winter grazing.

This may be a lower risk than purchasing store lambs, which is another alternative. However, it requires a significant outlay of capital from the outset to purchase lambs.

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