We are getting our summer at last this week and, as usual, it’s just in time for the kids going back to school.
Grazing conditions are excellent for the moment in the sunshine, with good clean-outs even on heavy covers. We might get an extended dry period now and get a good back-end to the year, and keep cows grazing well into autumn.
Grass is jumping out of the ground again with the warm temperatures this week, so the farm cover is going to peak a bit early and be a bit high going into autumn.
We will avoid making any late silage though and maybe bring a few other cattle back to the milking platform to eat some heavy covers, if necessary, rather than mowing.
The clover on the farm is really performing well in this weather and seems to still be producing a lot of free nitrogen at this stage of the year, so we will reduce the planned nitrogen spread again for the last round of the year and go with 20kg/ac of protected urea early next week.
We have a lot of new clover, chicory, and plantain over-sown on the milking platform. There is a balance to achieve with these young clover plants in reducing our artificial nitrogen applications to encourage them to produce natural nitrogen and keep the grass fed enough until the clover plants mature and get to full production.
The 18 units of nitrogen per acre for the final round should be a good balance between keeping the grass fed enough and keeping the clover stimulated enough to stay active. It will also help to reduce costs, with fertiliser starting to creep up again after a brief lull in prices.
As we get more of these plants established over the next few years, we will have to learn how best to manage them in a grazing rotation.
We felt it was better to add these plants to the existing sward by degrees across the whole farm, if possible, rather than reseeding a few paddocks and having a totally different diet in those paddocks when the cows went in.
We like to carry a bit of extra feed into dry weather to avoid feeding too much silage
If we can cheaply over-sow the whole milking platform over the next few years, we will have a consistent offering in the sward in front of the cows every day and, hopefully, we won’t run into problems with bloat from cows moving from a predominantly ryegrass sward to a clover sward on consecutive days.
It looks like these plants can be grazed at higher covers without as much loss in quality, which would be a big help in a drought situation. We like to carry a bit of extra feed into dry weather to avoid feeding too much silage, but this can be counter-productive with the associated drop in quality from stronger grass swards.
If we can minimise this quality drop and if these plants can stay growing for longer in a drought, it could be an added bonus on top of the free nitrogen from the clover and the reduced nitrate leaching from the plantain.
We might get to test this out over the next few weeks, as covers rise quicker than planned with current temperatures.
We will add more red clover, chicory and plantain next spring into the paddocks, with adequate levels of white clover, and we will continue to include white clover in the mix for paddocks with a low clover score. We will try the spinner on the quad bike again next year, as it seems to work as well as most over-sowing methods on this farm, at a much lower cost.
This is probably the best time of year to have a look at paddocks and put a clover score on them at the end of the summer, and put a plan in place for spring – for anyone interested in increasing the amount of clover in their swards.