Grassland experts offer advice for winter

Livestock producers should get grass under control now, to prevent problems next spring.

Looking ahead to grass management this winter, Piers Badnell from DairyCo said producers needed to start cutting grass now.

“Producers need to get it under control so it doesn’t ruin next year as well,” he told Farmers Weekly at Livestock 2012 last week.

“We’ve had a really rubbish summer and a lot of grass has got away from people, so it is important to take a cut off now while you’ve still got a reasonable length of day and reasonable dry matter (DM).”

He said ideally producers should look to get the grass down to a good residual of about 5cm and 1,500kg/DM/ha.

That way regrowth in winter would enable the grass to survive the cold and come spring it should be top quality, he explained.

“If we let long lush swards get into winter you will end up with a lot of death and it will be full of rubbish,” he explained.

Producers should give fields four months rest to recover before they turn cattle out to graze next year, he added. “Farmers looking to turn out cattle in February should lock up fields in October.”

Meanwhile, the British Grassland Society said flexibility was going to be key. “Farmers need to be flexible and react to conditions when it comes to re-seeding, fertilising and grazing,” said the society’s George Fisher.

He said the biggest problem this season would be soil compaction, which would cause problems with grass growth and quality.

He advised farmers to assess what state the soil was in first and take action accordingly.

“Farmers might need to plough and re-seed or direct drill damaged pastures,” he explained.

However, he admitted this would be dependent on the weather or it could exacerbate the problem. “If it is too wet, make a note to do something that spring,” he warned.

But he said farmers should be optimistic about conditions looking ahead to next year.

“This year has been a one-off event. The Gulf Stream has gone south and if we react to climate change it would be wrong.”

Producers should give fields four months rest to recover before they turn cattle out to graze next year.

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