The plan must be to close up a set amount of the farm each week until the whole grazing area is closed and animals housed.
The paddocks to be closed first in the autumn should be the paddocks/fields that will be grazed first in the spring. These fields are generally the driest, most sheltered and closest to the yard.
The autumn grassland planner is based on a 60:40 rule of thumb, where 60pc of the total farm area should be closed by November 7 or one to two weeks earlier on wetter farms.
A consistent amount should be closed each week up to November 7. When calculating your target areas, ensure to include all lands to be grazed in the spring, including silage ground that will be grazed before closing for silage.
Therefore if you start closing ground on the week of October 10, you have four weeks, to achieve your 60pc target, therefore 15pc of ground should be closed each week. The remaining 40pc should be closed from November 7 to housing.
The idea is that when all paddocks are closed by early December that there would be a range of grass covers on the farm from grazed out (4cm) to 8/9cm.
This would give an average farm cover of around 6cm which equates to 500 - 600kgs of dry matter per hectare. This will then be the grass that will be available next spring before the growth starts.
During a recent visit to Green Acres farmer Ben Sweeney, we sat down and completed an autumn rotation plan to identify fields and areas that would be closed to meet these targets.
Including silage ground, Ben has approx 180 acres grassland for grazing next spring.
In order to have 60pc (108 acres) of this grazed by November 7 we broke it down over a four week period. Starting on the week of October 10, Ben will need to close 15pc (27 acres) of his farm each week.
Fields were identified to meet these targets. The house and pylon fields are good dry fields close to the house and yard that could be grazed early next spring. These will be the first closed giving 28 acres. Stock will be asked to graze them out tight to have good quality grass growing from the base.
During the second week, 30 acres of reseeded ground will be tightly grazed off and closed. Again this is solid land close to the yard.
As we move into the second half of October, it is important to get heavier lands grazed out before the real depths of winter set in.
For this reason, Ben has identified the flats and meadow fields as the next paddocks to graze out.
These fields are heavier type soils and if the weather breaks they would become a problem to graze out properly. The paddocks in Donaheely will then be grazed in the first week of November. This is dry ground and is further away from the yard.
The remaining 40pc (72 acres) will be grazed out between November 7 and housing.
Depending on weather a number of animals may have been housed by now and this area can be covered younger lighter stock.
Grazing out paddocks too fast
If you are ahead of the target areas to be grazed, extra stock may need to be housed earlier than was planned or if ground conditions allowed you could offer supplementary feeding at grass. Heavier cattle should be housed first if ground conditions deteriorate.
Grazing out paddocks too slowly
If you are grazing too little area to meet the targets, then the rotation needs to be sped up, this can be done by grazing some of the lighter covers first in order to get the required area grazed off.
Gordon Peppard is programme advisor for the Teagasc Calf to Beef Programme
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