Get cows outside overnight and cut silage from diet
Published 16/03/2010 | 05:00
Grass quality on dairy farms is in pretty poor shape. Never mind the fact that we have had no growth whatsoever, the quality of the material ahead of cows last week was moderate.
Material that was reseeded in the past few years is looking reasonably OK, but old perennial ryegrass swards are in very poor shape. Throw in the odd sward that hasn't been reseeded in the past 30 years and you come up with a very poor picture of grass quality.
Few farmers at last week's discussion group meetings had cows out day and night. Most were bringing cows in at 4pm, giving them silage when they came in, and again post-milking.
The cows were standing at the gate at 3pm and had decided themselves on the amount of material they were removing from the grazing paddock. Needless to add, when these cows went out again the following morning, their appetites were not nearly as good as they should be, and this fact alone is going to influence how they go about removing grass from paddocks and achieving the desired post-grazing heights.
I found dairy farmers very slow to let cows out at night during the hard frosts of last few weeks. Many made out it was too cold. While night temperatures were cold, the weather was dry; there was no rain and no biting wind. Cows would have been perfectly OK outside, save the odd cow that just had a hard calving.
So, what's the message here? If your farm has several acres of dubious grass ahead of the cows, take the silage away from them and let them out at night. I am saying this regardless of the farm percentage grazed.
Grazing conditions were super for cows last week. You won't get a better chance for cleaning out paddocks, and having silage in the diet is the single greatest impediment to achieving this.
Paddocks not cleaned out in the first round will become a problem very early in the year. OK, you could say they will be topped after the second grazing, but you have no guarantee that the weather will be suitable. And even if it was, you will be asking cows to eat a very mixed diet of green leaf still mixed with dead material in the second rotation.