24 July 1998

Take advantage &hold out for autumn grazing

By Jessica Buss

DAIRY and beef producers should take advantage of this seasons continued grass growth to extend the grazing season into October and November, where possible.

But if the grazing season cannot be extended and grass cover is adequate nitrogen fertiliser applied in August could be wasted.

Kingshay Farming Trusts Martin Hutchinson says half the grazing season is still lies ahead, and dairy producers could still produce 1800 litres from forage, before housing.

"Producers in Cumbria, Kent, Devon and Pembrokeshire are achieving maintenance and 22 litres from forage," he adds.

But dairy producers must offer cows high quality grass to achieve high yields from forage. Use dry cows, youngstock or a mower to tidy paddocks and ensure high quality regrowth. Also, start planning to provide grass for extended grazing, where possible, says BGS grazing consultant Paul Bird.

"Herds that are heavily stocked need to start building cover from early August, but those more lightly stocked can wait until later in the month.

"But if you are not set up to use autumn grass – perhaps on a wet farm with no tracks – there is no point in building a feed wedge for late autumn."

When grass can be grazed, apply 30-50kg/ha (24-40 units/acre) of nitrogen behind cows, depending on sward clover content, and providing there is some moisture.

But average grass cover should be below 2300-2400kg DM/ha in late July. Otherwise more grass silage will need to be made or fertiliser applications stopped to prevent having too much grass in October.

However, many beef producers are struggling to maximise weight gains. Grass is getting ahead of cattle so quality is falling, says Devon-based Signet consultant Rob Shields.

"To provide higher quality grazing beef cattle should be offered silage aftermaths. Producers who normally make hay should consider round baling silage to clear ground more quickly, making aftermaths available sooner," he advises.

Suffolk-based Signet consultant Geoff Fish adds that any excess grass should be cut or topped to ensure high quality grazing for autumn. Alternatively, increase stocking by buying steers, on which subsidy can be claimed, or replacement heifers.

It is also vital to keep autumn calving sucklers tight enough on grass to avoid weight gain and subsequent calving difficulties, he warns.

But Mr Shields says that where grass quality is poor, stock may fail to gain weight, will be too light at housing and might not be finished over winter. To ensure weights at housing are adequate, weigh cattle now and feed concentrate if necessary. Cattle may benefit from 1kg of a supplement such as rolled barley in August, increasing to 2kg in September.

Where there is plenty of grass, it may be possible to save on nitrogen fertiliser, and apply some later in the season if more grass is needed, he says.

GRASSUSE

&#8226 Extend season where possible.

&#8226 Maintain sward quality.

&#8226 Consider fertiliser use.