Confront poor grass growth head on to ensure good stock condition
Published 10/10/2012 | 06:00
This year will be remembered because of the wet weather, but it's the poor grass growth since the middle of spring that is the real challenge for dairy farmers. It's been either too cold or too wet, so with no real sunshine or heat grass growth has often been lower than expected, especially this autumn.
Many farms had average pasture covers of less than 800kgDM/ha on October 1, and the challenge now hinges on the ability to manage a dwindling feed supply. A large amount of youngstock have been taken off areas the milking cows can graze.
Empty cows and undesirable milkers (poor producers, three teats, high SCC, lame) have been dried off and moved off. Concentrate feeding rates have increased dramatically with many feeding between 2-6kg/head, and silage bales are being used to buffer grazing.
Many cows are simply being housed by night and given silage. As we all know, this just adds extra costs to an ever decreasing margin, and increases pressure on cashflow.
A number of dairy farmers have mentioned how they are aiming to keep the cows grazing up until November 1.
While there are targets to graze around 60pc of the farm by November 1 with the aim of creating a staggered wedge of pasture cover, the main priority is to leave enough pasture cover for the spring.
This 'closing pasture cover' must not be compromised irrespective of how much of the grazing platform has been grazed. However, if you do feel that grazing will close up earlier than usual, to what pasture cover can you decrease it to?
This is all determined by the cover you require in spring. For example, if you need around 600kgDM/ha on February 1, and we assume that winter growth will give you 50kgDM/ha, this will require 550kgDM/ha on December 1.