There are as many strategies for the last grazing rotation as there are farmers. Everyone has their own plan based on their soil type, likes and dislikes and overall farm goals.
There are no right or wrong plans, but there are good and bad plans.
For me, a good plan is one that maximises the amount of grass in the diet in autumn and spring. That is to say that the farm gets as many days at grass in autumn and spring as possible.
For there to be grass in spring, there must be grass at closing time, say 1 December. If the farm cover is low at that stage, it will be low in spring also.
Soil fertility status
A low cover is anything less than 600kg/ha. On higher stocked farms, the closing cover can be as high as 900kg/ha.
However, this all depends on what the expected growth over winter is and this varies from farm to farm, based on location, altitude and soil fertility status.
Most farmers will start the last rotation this week. The actual start day will vary and may not actually be known until the middle of November when average farm cover will dictate closing date.
Of course weather and soil type have a huge influence, particularly on heavier soils and in high rainfall areas. However, the availability of grass can often be the main factor and this is something farmers have direct control over.
Most people will be happy to see cows out grazing until the middle of November. This is a good balance between achieving days at grass and closing early enough to have grass in spring.
As we are now in early October, that means there is about 40 days of grazing left. Farmers could divide the farm up into 40 sections and graze each section in a 24-hour period. If there isn’t enough grass in that section then extra feed can be brought in.
A rotation planner will keep the farm disciplined
This simple rotation plan doesn’t take into account average farm cover and it doesn’t front load closing to October, when a higher proportion of the farm should be closed such as 60%.
However, when combined with weekly farm walks to monitor average farm cover its not a bad plan as it will ensure that grass is kept in the diet and you won’t be going too fast.
Monitoring average farm cover weekly and comparing it to the grass budget is the gold standard in terms of grassland management. A rotation planner will keep the farm disciplined.