Warmer weather has seen grass growth rates increasing on farm, helping to build covers and improve ground conditions.

This should help farmers graze cattle into October, and possibly November on drier land, thereby delaying the onset of winter housing.

However, grazing during autumn takes careful management to prevent swards being damaged, as well achieving high levels of utilisation. Outlined are five tips to manage swards this autumn.

1. Target wet and heavy paddocks now

Ground conditions have improved, so target grazing as many paddocks with heavier soils over the next two weeks.

If the weather breaks, these paddocks are unlikely to dry out again this autumn. But by grazing now, they can get slurry and be closed up for spring.

Grazing heavier paddocks now will also leave drier fields to carry stock through mid to late autumn, when weather becomes more changeable.

2. Be flexible with paddock size

Be flexible with paddock size, as the numbers in grazing groups change through autumn. If ground is soft and grass covers are low, then work with bigger paddocks. The opposite should apply for dry conditions and heavy covers.

3. Strip grazing heavy covers

On paddocks with heavy covers, consider strip grazing to improve grass utilisation during the autumn period.

However, ground conditions need to be good and the wire should be moved in 12- or 24-hour allocations to keep fresh grass in front of cattle.

Otherwise, cattle can become unsettled and start poaching should they run out of grass and become hungry.

4. Back-fencing

Where there are plans to graze cattle into late autumn, regrowth needs to be protected to have grass for the next rotation.

Use a back fence to stop animals nipping off fresh regrowth. Back-fencing will also protect animals from poaching grazed swards with low covers.

5. Prioritise lighter cattle

Lighter cattle, such as spring-born weanlings and yearling stores, will be easier on ground as autumn progresses.

Don’t be tempted to hold heavy stores and cows outside until every blade of grass has been eaten off.

There is a point when such animals are better off housed, usually once animals start marking ground.

Housing heavier stock that bit earlier will leave more grass to carry lighter stock into late autumn. It also means a phased housing approach, rather than rapid housing of every animal once grass runs out, or ground gets too wet.

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