Top tips for autumn grassland management

As autumn settles across the country, livestock producers are being urged to ensure they have the correct residuals going forward into the winter.

DairyCo extension officer Piers Badnell said: “The key thing now is nailing residuals as we close up the fields – I would recommend getting it down to 1,500 kg/DM/ha – you want to be able to throw a golf ball out onto the field and be able to see it.”

For dairy producers looking to maintain these levels throughout the winter, he recommended grazing youngstock and dry cows on the fields, and said those using sheep to keep grass growth down need to be cautious about keeping them on the fields for too long.

He added: “I’d say this time of year is crucial for planning for next year. Farmers need to work out the average forage yields from their fields, and for those that have not performed so well, look at soil chemistry, soil structure and ryegrass content – this needs to be at least 50%, but ideally 70%.”

Helen Mathieu, area sales manager for British Seed Houses said: “It’s a good idea to assess the production of each field now and go and examine species of grasses present. And although it may be getting too late to re-seed this year in some parts of the country, always keep records of your assessments and then refer to them in the new season.”

ADAS sheep consultant Kate Phillips said sheep producers facing a grass shortage needed to prioritise grassland for ewes, and warned this may mean putting lambs on another diet or away for feeding, or selling some to ease stock numbers.

“We need to make sure they have 6-8cm of high quality grass throughout the tupping period and then of course, hold them steady to make sure their pregnancy is maintained,” she added.

EBLEX beef and sheep scientist Liz Genever said: “Farmers need to try and graze on their wettest fields and any high risk fields first, and also think about what fields they are likely to use first next year. These will tend to be generally south facing, with a good proportion of ryegrass.