THE extended grazing system at SACs Acrehead Farm operates at both ends of the season, but autumn management of swards is important to ensure there is enough grass to maintain early spring grazing.
Researcher Anne Dowdeswell told open day visitors about MDC-funded research at SAC and Harper Adams that aims to develop a system that does not use grass in autumn at the expense of spring grazing and provides spring herbage mass without winter kill.
Trial plots were grazed to late September or late November and down to 6cm (2in) or 10cm (4in) stubble height. Measurements the next spring started at T200 until turnout.
"First year results showed little difference between swards grazed to 6cm or 10cm to late September," said Ms Dowdeswell. "But there was a three-week delay in reaching 2000kg of DM/ha with the plot late-grazed down to 6cm.
"When extending the grazing season at both ends, you must consider turnout the previous autumn and give fields time to produce early grass."
Dave Roberts said Acrehead pasture was now managed so that one-third of the area was dedicated for early spring grazing. The block used for grazing through to December would be the last area to be used in spring.
"In spring the major limiting factor is having the confidence to turn out cows. But it is easier when they are going out for only two hours. However, if the weather is bad keep them in. There has to be some flexibility in the system," said Dr Roberts. *
It is easier to get cows out in poor weather when they are only going out for about two hours a day.