We're off to a fine start, so don't spoil it with bad quality pasture
Cows are producing very well at the moment, with some herds now hitting over 2kg milk solids per cow per day. Paddock activity is also been notably high, with a large percentage of the herd exhibiting signs of oestrus.
These two factors, combined with good grass growth over the past few weeks, mean things are generally humming along very sweetly.
However, it is still very important that we remain diligent about our immediate situation. Breeding will have either commenced or will be about to in the next week or so, so it's imperative to maximise a cow's intake on pasture, which is reliant on maintaining grass quality. High quality pasture contains a high proportion of green leaf and a small proportion of stem and dead matter and this principle should be a key focus as we head from the second rotation into the third.
Pre-grazing yields have been rising over recent weeks and a few second rotation paddocks have presented with heavy covers of >1500kgDM/ha available. Where these have been grazed down by cows, achieving a good grazing residual of 3.5-4cm has become more challenging. Now the quality challenge is well and truly on. The highly digestible short vegetative pseudo stems have now become reproductive on many grass tillers, with a longer and less digestible true stem which is elongating, with nodes which are visible to the naked eye and easily felt when running the tiller stem through your finger and thumb.
To minimise the impact of the grass plant's desperate urge to reproduce and develop this stem, which will reduce the cow's ability to perform in terms of both milk production and breeding, it is important that we aim to constantly balance the herd's feed demand (kgDM/ha/ day) with the pasture growth rate. Essentially, the aim is to graze cows as generously as possible whilst preventing excessive pasture waste and losses in future pasture quality. So the aim is to offer just enough pasture to stop these stems developing by grazing them off.
Surplus grass management is what sorts the men from the boys as it can be fairly tricky. There are tools to help your management decisions and maintain this balance, but all of them are reliant on weekly monitoring of grass cover and knowing the desired pre-grazing yield that is required by the cows for each week.
The pre-grazing cover can be calculated as shown below and is often referred to as the "trigger level" as any pasture with a cover greater than this amount is presenting a surplus above the herds feed demand.