Grass growth is surging ahead of livestock demand, which means sward quality is becoming an issue for some farmers.
As grass gets too strong for grazing, utilisation will drop and animals will waste more than they eat.
Closing off paddocks and taking out surplus grass as silage is a great way to maintain sward quality, as well as boosting winter fodder supplies.
When it comes to taking paddocks out for silage, outlined are five tips to follow.
1. Walk the grazing block twice weekly
Before deciding to take out surplus grass, you should be walking the farm at least once per week, but ideally twice weekly.
The more you walk the grazing platform, the easier it is to see the changes in sward covers. This makes it easier to decide how many paddocks can be skipped and cut for silage.
2. Work out grazing days ahead
Target a grazing rotation between 15 and 20 days during late May and June to maintain sward quality.
Walking the grazing platform twice weekly will help to gauge the number of grazing days ahead of stock.
If there is less than the outlined number of days in the rotation, hold off on taking out paddocks.
But if there is more than 20 days, then there is room to take out surplus grass.
3. When to cut surplus grass
Ideally, cut surplus grass as soon as possible and bale it. The earlier the grass is cut, the sooner paddocks comes back into the rotation.
However, if the main crop of first-cut silage will be harvested inside the next week, then it may be more practical to hold off and ensile surplus grass along with first cut.
Also, keep in mind when grass was last fertilised to avoid having high levels of residual nitrogen in the sward.
Roughly speaking, if grazing paddocks got a bag per acre of CAN at the start of May, that is 27 units/acre of nitrogen.
Grass will use up two units of nitrogen daily, so leave a gap of two weeks between cutting surplus grazing and the last fertiliser application.
4. Dressing aftermath with fertiliser
Once surplus grass has been cut, get fertiliser on immediately. It will take 14 to 20 days until a cut paddock will be ready for grazing again.
An early fertiliser application of 25 to 30 units/acre of nitrogen will drive regrowth.
Avoid spreading slurry on paddocks, unless applying with a dribble bar or trailing shoe. Even then, limit to 2,000 gallons/acre and be wary of grass tetany in lactating cows.
5. Mark bales when stacking
Bales made from surplus grass will have a high feed value. Therefore, stack separately from the main first cut or mark the bales with spray paint for easy identification.
These bales can then be targeted to stores, finishing cattle or cows in milk later in the year.