The difference between grass with a good metabolisable energy content of 12MJ/kg DM compared with grass with 10.5MJ/kg equates to about four litres of milk, assuming a DM intake of 14kg.
Therefore, it’s worth investing the time to reinstate residuals and get rid of rejection sites, says DairyCo technical extension officer Piers Badnell.
“The best ways to do this are by pre-mowing, wilting and grazing, cutting for silage or by using youngstock/dry stock to tidy paddocks up for you.
“To pre-mow, wilt and graze well, mow an allocation equal to what the cows will realistically clear up in a feed (aiming to mow to a residual of 1,500kg DM/ha, about 5cm).
“Most people mow eight to 12 hours ahead of feeding, to allow for wilting to increase palatability. Cows are then turned in to clear up everything, including rejection site and seed heads,” says Mr Badnell.
“If you are taking a silage cut, big bales are probably the best way to correct residuals. Mow tight to recreate a 4-5cm residual – this is lower than you would necessarily take for clamp silage, but here it is a grass management tool.
“If correctly allocated, and with a good amount of grazing pressure, youngstock and dry cows can be used to take a sward down to reinstate the residual. But this needs to be quick, and cattle should not be left roaming around for weeks. Allocate a small area and graze down hard in a few days, then move on.”
Beef and sheep
At this time of year it’s important to monitor ewe body condition score (BCS) to ensure ewes are on target for tupping, advises EBLEX livestock scientist Liz Genever.
“Research shows that body condition directly affects both lamb and ewe performance,” she says.
“The dry period is the best opportunity to get ewes on target, as it is more difficult to alter BCS when they are in lamb,” she says.
“The target for ewes at tupping is generally half or one BCS above the target at weaning,” says Dr Genever.
“Remember it takes six to eight weeks of unrestricted grazing for ewes to gain one BCS.”
Extending the grazing season
Brassicas can help hold off the need for concentrate feeding as winter approaches, says EBLEX’s Poppy Frater.
“The ideal site for brassicas is free draining, away from watercourses, with some shelter for livestock yet with sufficient air flow to allow fields to dry out and a dry runback area,” she says.
“The soil pH must be 5.8 to 6.5, with fertiliser applied according to soil test results, and weeds should be controlled before sowing.
“Brassicas should always be fed with ad lib fibrous forage, to improve rumen ‘scratch factor’. They should form no more than 50% of the diet initially, with stock introduced to the crop gradually.”
Producers need to be aware of the mycotoxin risk and make sure feed bins are clean and in good repair.
Poor feed and straw quality can be a real threat to the physical performance of both breeding and finishing herds, says Bpex knowledge transfer manager Richard Bows.
“It is important to be vigilant, particularly during the summer and autumn months. More information is available by downloading the factsheet 2TS Action for Productivity 8: Feed and straw management to reduce the risk from mycotoxins.
With autumn approaching, now is a good time to check and re-adjust ventilation settings to ensure optimal airflow, says Nigel Penlington, BPEX environment programme manager.
Air quality and temperature have a big impact on pig comfort, health and growth and producers should prepare in advance for changing weather. Also, there are many ventilation systems in the industry in need of some attention so it may be worth looking into investing in improvements to them.
A ventilation manual is currently in production which will include guidance on this.