Dairy: Big variation in grass covers but grazing rules remain the same
Having moved into the last quarter of 2015, it's now time to take stock and plan for 2016 season. On the grazing front, my fear of a wet autumn never became a reality.
Grazing conditions have been excellent in recent weeks, and therefore pasture residuals and cleanout should be equally good. However, average grass covers among my clients are extremely variable.
Some are wading their way through very heavy covers, others haven't built up grass as hoped or expected. Whatever predicament you find yourself in, at this stage the rules remain the same.
You should be closing up grazed ground since the beginning of October in preparation for spring 2016. Using a 45 day rotation, 1/45th of the milking platform should be grazed per day.
However, where covers are heavy and getting heavier, the area grazed is reducing on a daily basis, which may require a farmer to graze lighter covers first or increase the pasture demand. There is also an option to graze the top off with the cows and allow dry stock to clean up to achieve a decent clean out.
In contrast, where a farmer is short of pasture, the trick is to allocate no more than 1/45th of the farm per day and fill the deficit with a supplement.
But farmers must resist any temptation to re-graze paddocks unless covers are greater than 1,200kgDM/ha from this point on. Even with the opportunity to bolster this year's milk revenue by milking on, the most important thing is to protect next year's opening grass cover. Grazing it off will only rob Peter (2016) to pay Paul (2015).
At this stage many farmers have also scanned their cows, with empty rates now known. Again results have been extremely variable from excellent (less than 8pc) to poor (greater than 12pc).