Turning cattle out to grass is a welcome break from the winter feeding routine and frees up time for other activities on the farm, it is also a great opportunity to make more from our grass – the cheapest feed we can get if it is managed well.
The Growth Path project by AHDB Beef and Lamb (2016) showed that average summer growth rates for cattle being 0.8kg/head/day on well managed pasture, on poor pasture less than 0.4kg/head/day average, with both groups having much poorer performance later in the summer when grass quality wains. In contrast, farms practising rotational grazing can achieve 1.1-1.2kg/head/day average and this is driven by maintaining the grass quality later in the season.
Achieving good quality grass in the backend requires attention to detail in the spring. Once grass has headed quality has diminished and productivity is lost for the season, so managing the grazing pressure to suit the conditions is key – right amount of mouths at the right time. To maintain grass growth throughout the season keep the length between 6-8cm, this is also where it is most nutritious and digestible. It takes a bit of managing but the benefits are huge!
Rotational grazing doesn’t need to be complicated and can simply be done by reducing field size or using an electric wire or by moving round existing fields – allowing fields that are grazed down to rest and keeping enough grazing pressure on fields that are growing fast. If grass is growing faster than the stock are eating it, to maintain grass quality taking a field, or part of a field, out for silage will keep the grass quality for longer. The silage made from these paddocks is generally excellent quality and will be a very useful winter feed.
If you are keen to try rotational grazing the Farm Advisory Service Rotational Grazing Guide (Written by Poppy Frater) is a fantastic resource to get you started (www.fas.scot/downloads/rotational-grazing/).
Karen Stewart, email@example.com
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