Time to get rising plate meter out

6 March 1998

Time to get rising plate meter out

GRASS growth rates recorded by farmers who have turned out cows early range from 15 to 30kg DM/ha/day. However, dairy farmers who have grazed sheep over winter will have low grass covers and growth rates below 15kg DM/ ha/day, writes BGS grazing consultant Paul Bird.

Some form of grass measurement or assessment is critical over the next month. Some producers are using a rising plate meter. Plate meters measure grass height and from this estimate the kgs of grass dry matter available on the farm. If you are not measu-ring with a plate meter, walk every part of the farm at least once aweek.

If cows are about to be turned out, grass cover should remain constant or even slightly decrease up until early to mid-April. By assessing grass cover and growth rates, it is possible to modify rotation length and corresponding cow intake of grass, but grass availability should not drop below 1800kg DM/ha over the next month.

Spring calving herds with stocking rates of 2.5-3 cows a ha (1-1.2 cows an acre) on grazeable ground should be considering turning out by day and by night as soon as soil conditions allow. If it is still wet try grazing for two to three hours after morning and afternoon milking and then housing. Grass intakes of 8-10kg DM a cow a day can be achieved.

Samples of grazed grass tested are still showing high dry matters of 18% and ME levels of 11-12.

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