Weather forecasts indicate that heavy rainfall will be a common occurrence next week. This will see ground conditions starting to get soft and harder to manage.
Once cattle start to cause surface damage, many farmers will look to bring animals inside for the winter.
Before housing begins, it is important to graze off as much grass as possible, then close off paddocks for spring turn-out. Outlined are five tips to closing off ground in October.
1. Spread cattle out in smaller groups
As October gets under way, spreading cattle out over the farm will ease the stocking density, and pressure, on grazing swards.
This should inflict less surface damage as ground starts getting soft compared with mob grazing in larger groups.
At all costs, avoid heavy poaching of swards. Poaching will hold surface water over the winter, delaying grass growth next spring.
Spreading cattle out over the farm will also help nip off covers before cattle have to come indoors for winter.
2. Don’t worry about cleaning covers out tight to the ground
Where there is still significant grass on paddocks, don’t get hung up on grazing swards tight to the ground during wet conditions.
Once covers are grazed low, cattle can quickly become unsettled and tramp paddocks if the weather turns wet.
Therefore, in the final rotation, aim to take the majority of the cover off and don’t be afraid to leave a slightly higher than normal residual behind.
3. Graze out the wetter paddocks first
Before ground conditions turn for the worst, focus on getting as many of the wetter paddocks grazed out as possible.
Cattle can be moved to drier paddocks afterwards. Make use of electric fencing to skip over drier paddocks to get access wet fields.
4. Protect grazed or soft ground with a back fence
Once paddocks have been grazed, move cattle on to the next grass allocation. Close off those areas animals have been removed from.
If there is no defined paddock set-up, make use of electric wires to back-fence grazed areas, preventing cattle from walking back over grazed swards and poaching soils.
5. House heavy cattle and make use of lighter stock
Don’t wait until all grazing ground is saturated before starting to house cattle. Instead, start pushing heavy cattle indoors in phases from early October.
Leave the lighter cattle until the end before housing. Lighter cattle will inflict less ground damage and can remain outside to graze out the final covers before closing up all paddocks.
Spring-born calves can be considered under this option, with animals possibly returning to grass once they have been weaned either on a full-time basis, or through on-off grazing methods.