28 August 1998

Make N choices now for quality autumn grazing

By FWlivestock reporters

APPLY fertiliser now to ensure quality autumn grazing as grass growth continues, but consider how much grass you can use before applying N across the whole farm.

Wilts-based Axient consultant Neil Adams says that many producers dont use N in September because they believe grass will not grow well. But until mid-September a response of 7-9kg of grass/kg N is possible.

Before deciding against applying N on the basis of plentiful grass silage, assess stocks and maize crop yields – which may be poor – while there is time to grow more grass.

"Where an area is stocked heavily and grazed down with dry cows, apply fertiliser now to produce high quality grass," says Mr Adams. But avoid growing grass which cannot be used – only fertilise paddocks you can graze.

On wet farms, SACs Jimmy Goldie advises only applying N to drier fields, and at low rates.

Carol Gibson, BGS northern grazing consultant, says that many producers are considering stopping N to avoid third cut.

"But apply some N to continue grazing. Application rate depends on stocking rate and stage of lactation, but is about half that required for third cut because more land is available for grazing."

"Before applying N, work out feed days available in each paddock by the next grazing, then apply nitrogen over last weeks grazing when you can graze more than will be available." Mow laxly grazed fields to ensure high quality regrowth, and expect to graze stronger grass in late season as growth slows and rotation lengthens.

Basil Lowman, SAC beef specialist, says there are two months of quality grazing available for beef cattle. "Where you are storing cattle through autumn, keep them outside for as long as possible. Tidy up pastures and feed cheap vegetable waste, where available, to maintain stock condition."

"Where grass growth is out of control on mixed units, consider mob stocking with ewes at 20/acre. Graze pasture hard and then fertilise – applying 35-40 units/acre – to get the most from autumn grazing.

"Mature stock, particularly ewes, have fared well this summer so this tactic might help reduce risk of over-fat ewes at tupping."

But both SAC sheep specialist John Vipond and Dr Lowman advise supplementing grazing where lambs and cattle appear slow to finish.

AUTUMN GRAZING

&#8226 Consider what can be grazed

&#8226 Good fertiliser response

&#8226 Supplement finishers