22 May 1998

Wildfire grass growth brings quality hurdles

By Sue Rider

EXPLOSIVE grass growth after the wet spring is causing grazing difficulties, especially where turnout was delayed, and careful management will be crucial to safeguard quality later in the season.

"Grass has exploded into growth in the last 10 days and added to a later turnout this means theres a tremendous amount of grass," explains Axients West Midlands-based Nigel Davies.

"The priority is to guarantee the quality of June/July grazing. Look ahead, ensure there is enough grass for two weeks grazing and cut everything else. Grass is growing so quickly these fields will be ready to graze again in two to three weeks."

If forced to graze over longer grass, bring in other stock to tidy up and take the sward down to about 6-7cm (2.4-2.8in).

New Zealand dairy consultant Carol Gibson, working in the north of England for the BGS, suggests there is a tendency to leave too much grass behind. "This will reduce quality and intakes next time around," she explains.

She suggests leaving 1700-1800kg behind after the cows. "This should be when the cows have grazed well between the clumps and over them – and there will be a certain amount of unevenness," she explains.

When grass has got too far ahead of the cows , its harder to graze to a good level.

"In this situation tidy up whats left behind the cows with dry or youngstock. The alternative is to top or skip a paddock if there is sufficient shorter grass – at about 3000kg DM/ha – to move onto."

Kendal-based Axient consultant Peter Molyneux has some clients strip grazing longer grass.

"Move the herd across the field quickly to take down the grass wedge – using a back fence to protect regrowth – and if grass is very long use young or dry stock to clear up. Get it wrong now and you wave goodbye to decent grass in autumn."

Quentin Straghan, his colleague in the south, also advises against forcing cows to take down the sward. "This will depress yield, and the higher fibre in the base of the sward might push up fat."

ADASs David Levick would rather producers cut very long grass. "The best way to manage it is to cut it off and clamp it." He believes far too much – 60-75% – is wasted when its grazed. Strip or zero grazing, although more work, will reduce waste, he says.

To avoid running short of grazing if conditions remain dry, New Zealand consultant Paul Bird advises treating the whole farm as a grazing area, once silage is cut. "Graze the whole farm including areas cut for first cut silage – aiming for a 30-40 day rotation if conditions remain dry – to carry grass forward into the drier period. Then reassess whether a second cut is needed when a surplus arises."

he says.

GRAZING POINTERS

&#8226 Clear up well behid cows.

&#8226 Strip graze or cut long grass.

&#8226 Graze whole farm once cut.

GRAZING POINTERS

&#8226 Clear up well behind cows.

&#8226 Strip graze or cut long grass.

&#8226 Graze whole farm once cut.