Grazing is under pressure on many farms with grass growth below demand and frequent rain leaving ground extremely soft and prone to poaching.

To help manage grazing through the current difficult conditions, outlined are five tips to stretch grass covers.

1. Keep cattle moving

Cattle will be unsettled with a combination of wet conditions and low grass covers, increasing the risk of poaching on soft ground.

Therefore, try to keep cattle moving to fresh grass as often as possible. If cattle are normally moved to fresh grass after three days, reduce this to two day intervals.

Don’t get hung up on cleaning paddocks tight to the ground before moving stock. Again, this will only make animals unsettled.

By moving cattle early, animals will rotate around the grazing block faster and can clean out paddocks in the next rotation, provided conditions improve.

2. Back fencing

Fields with low grass covers and bare swards are more prone to poaching. Using a back fence will help to protect these grazed areas from excessive trampling and encourage regrowth.

3. Hold off from topping

Normally, in good grazing conditions, the advice would be to top grass that has headed out. But hold off on topping until grass growth improves and ground dries out.

Headed out grass may not be ideal for weight gain or milk production, but it has advantages in wet conditions.

The higher fibre content will keep cattle stomachs full, helping to settle animals and reduce the amount of trampling.

4. Buffer feeding on silage swards

If grass is tight, grazing some fields intended for second cut silage will be necessary to stretch out the rotation.

Where cows are grazing swards that received slurry or a high potash (K) fertiliser after first cut silage, make sure animals are well covered for magnesium.

On fields where silage has yet to be cut, strip grazing should be practiced. This stops animals from spoiling grass and once growth picks up, the ungrazed sward can still be harvested for silage.

5. Reducing grazing demand

Look at the cattle on farm and see where grazing demand can be reduced. Cows calving in late August and September could be housed for a short period and dried off.

Take steps to limit summer mastitis when these animals go back to grass, as it is a common problem in autumn calving herds.

Garlic licks, fly repellent ear tags and pour-on can be deterrents. Grazing low grass covers and avoid fields with trees and stagnant water courses as flies will be more common.

In spring calving herds, is there scope to offload those cows that persistently calve late or wean poor calves every year?

Selling as an outfit may attract greater buying interest and free up ground for grazing. It will also reduce demand for silage this winter.

Forward, heavy fleshed stores are a good trade in the marts. Offloading some heavier animals will ease the pressure on grass and ground conditions, as well as generating cashflow.

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