Grass is a great asset for feeding and when managed well can produce high liveweight gains from cattle. However, as we move through summer it is important to remember that grass will start to become more fibrous, therefore reducing the metabolisable energy (ME), potentially to around 11 MJ/kg DM. This can support gains of around 0.8kg/day; however it can be extremely variable; being potentially much lower in fields that have been affected by drought.
The heatwave we have been experiencing has resulted in high grass dry matter and lower utilisation rate, especially where grass has headed and remained un-topped. GrassCheck (Northern Ireland) reported a drop in grass growth, as expected for this time of year, averaging at 51.8 kg DM/ha/day, however areas experiencing drought conditions had growth rates as low as 8.4 kg DM/ha/day. When feed requirements outweigh demand adjustments will need to be made.
Short term solutions:
- Creep feeding calves- this will leave more grass available to the cows to allow them to regain condition and also improve the performance of the calves
- If possible, take out some fields that are destined for 2nd cut silage and put it to grazing
- Cull unproductive animals eg. barren cows
- Sell stock, stores or finished animals at slightly lower weights
- Provide supplementary feeding
- Prepare a feed budget- this involves calculating how much grass the group of stock needs and how much grass will grow on allocated grazing ground. By planning a feed budget you will be more likely to know whether there is enough grass to meet stock requirements over a long period.
- Topping rejected grass- especially useful for cows. It maybe low quality fodder but good for cows and they are more likely to eat it when dry, making use of headed grass that would otherwise be wasted.
- Keep growing/finishing cattle in the shed, move onto intensive cereal based diet and finish cattle earlier keeping grazing for the suckler cows
Mary Young, email@example.com
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