Rains have put an end to the grazing season in the west
Doing the farm walk in recent weeks has been more like a moon walk as it seemed I was going backwards rather than forwards at times as I squelched along, with my wellies struggling to get traction on the wet ground.
As I took a moment while walking and listened carefully, I found that waterlogged ground also makes a disheartening popping noise, which confirmed that grazing is not an option for a paddock in this situation. As a result of the wet weather in the west, the grazing season has finished up on many farms, with our cows now housed in order to save soil structure and limit poaching damage.
We made a conscious effort not to build up too much grass this autumn, and also to graze the wetter paddocks sooner rather than later. But, in the end, we are still faced with covers of more than 1,450kg DM/ha when November growth is considered, which is too high to be considered closed for winter.
Ideally, dry weather would give some relief in the next few weeks, which would allow cows out to graze off these heavy covers before December and give some recovery before grass growth stops and the cold weather of winter kicks in.
However, a dry spell may be wishful thinking in the short term and it's possible that we will be forced to graze off heavy autumn covers during winter.
While it may reduce winter burn and tiller loss, you should expect lower growth rates from these paddocks in spring, as removal of the cover in winter exposes the remaining plant tissue to low temperatures, which causes a physiological shock to the plant.
Any paddock grazed in the depth of winter is unlikely to have any available pasture for grazing until April or May, so make sure this area is removed from your feed budget and spring rotation plan.
For farms where grazing conditions are still good, it is likely that you will be finishing up grazing in the next few weeks, with an aim to leave an average cover of 400-750kg DM/ha. The ideal cover to close on the milking platform is dependant on your requirement for grass cover in spring.