With autumn just around the corner, livestock farmers should be aiming to build grass covers that will carry cattle into October or November, if ground conditions permit. To help build grazing covers in the weeks ahead, outlined are five tips to consider.
Grass growth remains relatively good on productive swards, ranging from 40kg to 60kg DM/ha/day across the country.
At the outlined growth rates, there is an economic response to spreading 27 to 30 units/acre of nitrogen in late August.
But growth will start tailing off as September progresses, so the earlier nitrogen is applied to swards the better.
2. Using silage ground to extend rotations
Many farmers harvested second cut silage in mid-August.
Hopefully, this ground will come back into grazing rotations for the autumn, helping to extend rotations and lower stocking rates.
For September, aim to extend the grazing rotation to between 25 and 30 days. This should allow enough rest for swards to regrow and carry cattle into late October.
3. Leaving higher grazing residual
With shorter days in autumn, grass growth will slow. Therefore, leave a slightly higher residual cover on paddocks to speed up regrowth during autumn.
Grazing down to a 5cm or 6cm residual will leave some green leaf, helping swards to photosynthesise and regrow.
4. Offloading stores and empty cows
In spring calving herds where breeding activity has finished up, cows can be pregnancy scanned around 40 days after serving.
Early scanning will identify empty cows, and along with any other problem animals, culling in early autumn will ease grazing demand and help stretch covers for more productive stock.
If there are cattle to sell live, consider moving offloading animals in early September before the flush of stores are moved off grass. Again, this will free up grass for other stock to graze in autumn.
5. Housing finishing cattle
Grass dry matter will decline week on week in autumn, so finishing cattle will need supplementing with high levels of concentrate feed to maintain liveweight gain.
If grass is scarce, or sward quality is far from ideal, consider housing these animals on good quality, high dry matter silage.
Silage and 3kg to 5kg/head will boost liveweight gain compared to animals grazing wet grass and high levels of concentrate.
Housing finishing animals in early autumn will free up grass for younger, lighter animals that can graze into late October or November.