Believe it or not, there are only about six or seven weeks of grazing left in the year.

While ground conditions are good at present, as we move into October and as daylight hours decrease, both grass growth and ground conditions will decline.

For even the most ardent of grazers, getting past mid-November is always a challenge and not necessarily because ground conditions deteriorate, but more so because they want to keep enough grass for the spring.

Having enough grass for the spring is a key priority for all farmers, but especially those that have the ability to get cows out to grass early.

Rule of thumb

In other words, it’s less of a priority for farmers on very heavy land to have a high opening farm cover because they may not get to graze it all.

The 60:40 rule is a pretty good rule of thumb. This says that farmers should graze and close up 60% of the farm by the end of October, leaving the remaining 40% for grazing in November.

For most farmers, the start date for the start of closing will be between 1 and 6 October.

The only problem with using dates and percentages for managing grass is that it doesn’t take into account grass growth or herd demand.

Looking at the actual amount of grass on the farm and comparing this to a target based on what the herd requires at a certain date is a much better metric, but farmers need to be measuring grass regularly to know this.

Cover per hectare

Average farm cover per hectare is what is used when looking at how much grass is on the farm. The best way to assess what the target should be is to carry out a grass budget.

The grass budget can be easily filled in on Pasturebase. The objective of a grass budget is to plan to have enough grass on the farm for a long first rotation of grazing and to have enough grass for a 20-day second round in April.

All of these parameters can be filled in on the autumn budget and will then help with making decisions around how much feed is required now.