A fairly severe grass deficit is now very evident across much of the country, as a soil moisture deficit takes hold.

Some places are worse than others, but most farms, with the exception of very heavy farms, are beginning to be affected.

With only patchy rain in the forecast for next week, this could last longer than many hoped.

Here are some tips for dealing with the problems brought about by the grass deficit.

Reduce stocking rate

Where possible, ground that was destined for second-cut silage or surplus paddocks should be grazed or, if on an outside block, they could be zero grazed. Don’t be too concerned about pre-grazing yield, as any grass is better than no grass.

Hit residuals hard

With a lot of supplements being fed, some herds are getting lazy and leaving grass behind.

You cannot afford to do this at any stage, least of all in a feed deficit.

Make sure cows are hitting residuals of 3cm or even less, or a post-grazing cover of zero centimetres.

If this means cows have to work harder, then so be it. They will make up for lost production when they graze excellent swards in the autumn.

Pick a diet that works for you

There is good grass covers on most farms still and these covers should be reduced before putting in a lot of feed such as silage. The use-it-or-lose-it rule applies to grass.

Water is critical

Where supplies to water troughs are weak, consider changing ball cocks.

High-pressure ball cocks are a disaster. They only let through 8l of water per minute, while medium pressure let through 32l/min and low pressure let through 42l/min.

It all depends on the size of the hole in the white fitting in the brass ball cocks. Most of the modern-type ball cocks are all fast flow.

Water trough size

This is less important than pipe size. If pipe size is holding you back, use a loop to increase capacity. This can be done temporarily by buying extra pipe and leaving it overground.

Reduce demand

Reduce demand for water after milking by putting water troughs in the collecting yard and in the yard where the cows come out after milking.


If water is very scarce, turn off the water to the plate cooler, but bear in mind that milk cooling will take longer and more electricity will be used. This may not be an option where chilling units are already under pressure.