How to manage autumn grassland
The 60:40 planner is an effective tool for grassland management in the autumn
The annual grassland management calendar starts in the autumn. The closing date of paddocks and how they are grazed out in the months of October and November has a direct effect on the amount of grass available on the farm in February and March.
The 60:40 autumn rotation planner is a tool used during the last grazing rotation. 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.
As grass growth rates from the first of November to the first of March are very low or close enough to zero, any grass to be grazed in February and early March will have to be grown this October.
The first paddocks/field to be closed should be those that will be grazed first in the spring. These fields are generally the driest, most sheltered and closest to the yard.
The planner (see opposite) is based on a 60:40 rule of thumb, where 60pc of the total farm area would be closed by November 8 to 10 or one to two weeks earlier on wetter farms.
A consistent amount should be closed each week up to November 10. When calculating your target areas, include all lands to be grazed in the spring, including silage ground that will be grazed before closing for silage.
If you start closing ground on the week of October 5, you have five weeks, to achieve your 60pc target, therefore 12pc of ground should be closed each week. The remaining 40pc should be closed from November 10 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 8cm. This gives an average farm cover of around 6cm which equates to 500 to 600kgs of dry matter per hectare. This will be the grass that will be available next spring before the growth starts.