Now that grass growth has returned to more normal levels, it’s a good time to assess clover. There is obviously huge interest in clover, and more and more farmers are talking about managing it and making use of it.
However, on most farms that have clover the contribution it can make to reducing N is negligible because it doesn’t exist in sufficient quantities to make a difference.
Over the course of the year, clover content should average 20% of the overall sward.
Given that there is at most 5% to 10% clover content in spring, this means that clover content should be approaching 40% and more now. Swards at this clover content look like the entire field is full of clover.
Now is a good time to carry out a clover assessment and plan for next year. Fields with good grass varieties and some, but not enough clover should be targeted for over-sowing next April.
Apply lime, phosphorus and potash now to improve soil fertility. Slurry can be spread until 8 October and lime spread all year round.
Fields with older grasses and not enough clover should be targeted for full reseeding and soil fertility should be rectified in advance here too.
The amount of grass that this year’s calves are eating is really starting to ramp up as they grow. At this stage, replacement heifer calves should be weighing 200kg if their mature liveweight is expected to be 580kg.
That’s about 35% of their mature liveweight. As we head into autumn, grass quality will start to reduce, and with it liveweight gain from grass.
The good news is that unlike a beef scenario, you don’t need replacement heifers to be achieving very high liveweight gain in order to do a good job.
They need to be growing at 0.68kg/day to hit the target weight of 250kg by December.
Because animals have been grazing tighter than normal during the dry weather, there could be an increased risk of worms this backend. Hoose or lungworm may also be a problem after a lot of heavy rain.
Probably the biggest obstacle to achieving the target weights is a health setback, so spend a bit of time planning a dosing strategy this autumn.
I was speaking to a dairy farmer during the week who had decided to buy in high-EBI heifer calves instead of rearing his own.
His thinking is that his own herd had a low EBI and this was being reflected in his milk payment, with the milk price received per litre being below the co-op average and barely higher than base price.
Compared to the genetics which are available to buy today, it would take years of breeding for the farmer to get to the same level.
Even if he does get there, the high-EBI herds will have moved on again and will be performing even better than they are now so he will never actually catch up.
There is very little difference in price between “good stock” and “bad stock” so the cost of upgrading is quite low.
Health risks can be mitigated by buying from clean herds and implementing a biosecurity plan around quarantine, vaccination, etc. With good beef prices it’s an ideal time to tidy up the herd. Use the COW index from the ICBF to identify the least profitable cows within the herd.