22 December 2000

Counting leaves gives guidance

LETTING the grass plant have a say in grazing decisions ensures cows graze the best quality feed and helps keep the sward productive, believes Sussex milk producer Gwyn Jones.

He told the conference that he learned about the three-leaf grazing system, practised in Australia, through the internet. He explained that after grazing or cutting, a grass plant regrows one leaf at a time until there are three full-length leaves.

Once a fourth leaf appears the first leaf has started to decay. So it makes sense to graze it at the full three-leaf stage or in some circumstances slightly earlier, say at 2.5 leaves. But grazing too much before the three-leaf stage means the grass has probably not had enough time to fully use nutrients taken up from the soil, and to replenish root reserves used up in producing regrowth.

Mr Jones is convinced it is better to graze a paddock with only 1800kg dry matter/ha at the three leaf stage before another paddock with 2000kg DM/ha which is at only the two-leaf stage.

In the past year he has successfully used the system on his Weald clay farm with 500 cows. &#42