Taking action now will give you an edge in the annual rotation gamble
The impact of the wet September on cows and pasture is becoming noticeable.
Lameness, decline in milk production, increase in SCC, cows flying through covers, unsettled cows with loose dungs, pasture damage and shorter than desired grazing rotations have been experienced by most dairy farmers in some shape or form.
So considering the present grazing situation, what decisions need to be made? The first priority is autumn grazing management and the objectives here include:
- achieving a good clean out for spring pasture quality
- minimising pasture damage to maximise grass growth now and in spring
- saving enough pasture cover for spring grazing
- protecting cow body condition score
In a good autumn, with paddock closure starting in early October on an average rotation length of 45 days, a farmer will have closed around 60-65pc of the farm by November 1. This approach controls the decline of available pasture and creates a staggered feed wedge available for spring grazing.
However, this year - with a 35-day rotation being common - it will require in excess of 80pc of the grazing platform to be closed by November 1.
The simple consequence of this shorter 35-day grazing rotation is a faster decline in average pasture cover and thus the requirement to close the farm sooner.
Against that, the merits of this shorter rotation are reduced pasture damage in wet conditions and potentially better per cow production. Establishing a 45-day rotation will now require better ground conditions and increased levels of supplementation of meal and silage.
At this point we have to ask the hard questions of whether the weather will facilitate grazing to continue well into November and whether to reduce cow demand or if heavy supplementation would be better used now or later in lactation?