Autumn plans key to hitting targets
GRASS growth is good, grazing out is tough and production is noticeably falling for many farmers over recent weeks. Where no supplements are being fed, cows have become docile, with an unwillingness to move either out of, or to, a new paddock in some situations.
While facing all these challenges, August is a critical month on the grassland management calendar as it's the time when your planning and preparation for spring should begin. Essentially, you should now resist trying to cling onto an ever-falling milk production and avoid making decisions focusing solely on the tank.
Getting the management right can be tricky as surpluses can still be emerging. In essence, there are three core aims of autumn management:
- Provide sufficient quantity of good-quality pasture for cows in spring;
- Promote pastures which are in good condition for rapid growth in spring;
- Have cows which are in adequate body condition score at calving.
While these seem like distant targets, getting these essential elements right requires timely decisions during the autumn.
Do not underestimate the importance of body condition score. The sustainability of seasonal calving is reliant on a condition score of 3.25 at calving for 90pc of the herd, and is essentially determined by your drying off decisions. An adequate condition score requires good feeding and -- most importantly -- time.
The initial starting point for autumn management is to plan your feed budget around the target pasture covers required back from the magic date in spring. Factors to consider are your present pasture cover, expected growth rates, desired level of supplementary feeding, drying-off decisions (heifers, early calvers, late calvers, etc) and calving rate. The most essential aim here is to determine the pasture cover target that you must not go below when closing the grazing ground this autumn and what you need open with for spring.
After this we have to consider its implementation, as the grass plant will adapt to its particular circumstance.
During autumn, the use of slow rotations rather than fast ones (30-50 days versus 15-20) will ensure farm pasture covers are maintained at an adequate level.