If you think grass is a cheap feed, the British Grassland Society wants you to think again. And its Dairy Event exhibit, Milking Grass for Profit, was set to encourage farmers to think about the potential value of grass.
“Thinking of grass as a cheap product tempts us to be casual about the efficiency with which it is used,” BGS past-president Nigel Young told Farmers Weekly.
This encourages inefficient grazing, which results in a serious deterioration of sward quality, he explains. The next time it is grazed sward rejection happens and the whole situation spirals out of control.
“We think grass is your most valuable feed. And, well managed grass can produce 12t/ha DM and it is possible for stock to eat 10t of this, allowing for wastage.
“When grazing is properly managed it is possible to maintain this at a metabolisable energy level of 11.5-11.8 MJ/kg DM throughout the grazing season.”
This is similar to the ME in purchased concentrate, so 1ha of well managed grass is worth the same as 10t of concentrate. At a concentrate price of £130/t grass would be worth £1300/ha, he calculates.
Many farms have autumn grass available and should consider how best to use it. Often the limiting factor is access, so consider track and gateway maintenance while weather permits and where possible have a separate entry and exit point for each field.
Once conditions become wetter, cows should be grazed for a few hours then brought in before they lie down or poach grass.
Autumn is also an important time in planning for turnout, says BGS president and Cheshire farmer Richard Ratcliffe. “It’s important to graze swards down well when they are grazed for the last time in autumn and to set up a grazing wedge. Some fields should be closed up earlier than others to ensure grass will be available at turnout, rather than leaving all fields bare.”