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Deferred Grazing Ewes Instead Of Harvesting Silage

18 October 2017

Picture from Pedigree Sheep Ireland

With mature grass still to cut another option is deferred grazing.  Leaving the crop in the field now negates the cost of harvesting and the risk of soil damage.  Grass quality will not be optimal, it will be akin to hay (9 MJME/kg DM).  However, mature ewes, 2-3 weeks after tupping, can be put on this pasture and maintain body condition if allocated by measuring grass and rationing with electric fencing.

At this time of year, a 70 kg ewe requires 1.7 kg DM/day (assuming 9 MJ ME/kg DM).  If the crop is at 3,500 kg DM/ha (~15 cm), it can be grazed initially to 2,000 kg DM/ha (~7 cm) *.  Therefore 1,500 kg DM/ha is available which can feed 880 ewes for one day.  Put it another way, a five acre field, would have 3,036 kg DM available or 1785 ‘ewe grazing days’ – if the flock size is 300 ewes, that’s nearly 6 days of feed available for the flock.  The maths, although not very exciting, can help you out of a feed pinch.  Of course, this is not without risks, we cannot forecast the winter weather yet, but it may be a viable option to utilise the crop.

*those accustomed to rotational grazing may question this residual height.  Grazing any lower will be challenging with pre-graze covers above 3,000kg DM/ha. Plus, there is risk of higher wastage.  Once grazed to 2,000kg DM/ha, there is the option to come back to that field in late winter.

Poppy Frater,

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