Maximising the benefits of the autumn rotation planner
No one can predict or plan what the weather and ground conditions will be like next February and early March for early grazing, but the one thing that farmers can plan for is to have grass available at this time if conditions are suitable to graze. It is better to be looking at the grass in the spring rather than looking for it.
As very little growth will happen between November and February, for grass to be available for grazing in February/early March it must be grown this October.
Each year the 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. 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 would be closed by November 7-10 or one to two weeks earlier on wetter farms.
A consistent amount should be closed each week up to the November 10. 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 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 8/9cm.
This would give an average farm cover of around 6cm which equates to 500-600 kg of dry matter per hectare. This will then be the grass that will be available next spring before the growth starts.