14 April 1995

Plan your grass use

EARLY season grazing management is vital to maximising milk production from grass.

That was the message of the Scottish Agricultural Colleges Dr Cled Thomas. "If grass management isnt right in the first two months, then you have lost it."

Time spent now on forward planning to maximise use of grazed grass over the whole season would boost margins. Dr Thomas advised grazing cows tightly early in the season at 4cm (1.5in) sward heights to keep on top of the grass and increase tiller density.

He cited SAC research showing it was possible to get an extra 2kg of milk a day from cows grazing swards well-managed in early season compared with those receiving only average management.

"Always assume grass growth is going to be better than average because it is easier to overcome feed shortages than it is to manage grass that has got away," he said.

Grass shortages could be overcome by buffer feeding. But cows should not be left to decide for themselves when to eat the buffer. Response would depend on lactation stage and sward height.

Cows offered buffer when grazing 10cm swards compared with those on 7cm swards produced no more milk but ate extra silage and rejected a lot more herbage.