Putting a size on paddocks
While grass growth has been excellent over the past three months, maintaining quality has been difficult. It doesn't help that many farmers have increased stock numbers, without amending paddock sizes.
Having a good paddock design and layout will help you get the most from your grass by allowing you to manage it efficiently.
Pat Clarke and Tom Ryan, Teagasc dairy specialists, recently outlined the most important points to remember when setting up a paddock system.
Whether you are re-designing an existing block or adding to it, start off with getting a good map of the farm. Aerial picture maps from the SPS are useful as are the more detailed ones which can be printed from Bing or Google maps. Web based software with measuring tools, such as ArcView are ideal. A number of commercial companies specialise in mapping and use GPS to get exact paddock sizes.
Number of grazings
Decide how many grazings you will get per paddock mid-season. One grazing is normally allocated to the herd in the spring and autumn. This allows for good grass utilisation and helps reduce damage to paddocks when weather and ground conditions are most challenging. For the remainder of the year allocating grass every 12 hours is time consuming. If the correct amount of grass is not allocated cows may be underfed. This especially impacts on heifers as the cows will generally pick the best of the grass at every grazing. Allocating grass for more than 48 hours allows cows back over grazed grass and you will end up hitting re-growths.
Two to three grazings per paddock, is less time consuming, protects re-growths and gives cows, especially heifers, a chance to be fully fed in two out of every three grazings. It is also much more efficient when spreading fertiliser, topping or taking out bales in larger paddocks.