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When Will Winter End?

26 February 2018

A late spring can have a huge impact on profitability.  However the impact is likely to be even greater this year with the shortage of forage and in particular straw and other bedding materials.

To try and predict when turnout might occur this year myself and Jonathan Black have used the TSum 200 data from SAC’s grass trial plots at Aberdeen.  Over the 30 odd years, the date for TSum 200 has varied by over 3 months!  However by using the cumulative TSum value for the 20th February it is possible for us to give a guide as to whether spring will be later or earlier than normal this year.

Unfortunately the prediction suggest that TSum 200 will be reached much later than average this spring and hence it is likely that spring, and or more importantly turnout will also be around 3 weeks later than normal.  Already dairy producers in south Wales who normally turnout in early/mid February still have no signs of grass growth


While we certainly are not suggesting turnout will be exactly 21 days later this year we are suggesting it will be later than normal.  Taking time now to think and plan how you might cope with the later turnout will be time well spent.  Some suggestions could be –

  • Sell store cattle etc ASAP.
  • Sell finished cattle early at fat class 4L or even 3.
  • Initially graze all grass and delay shutting up fields for silage until grass growth exceeds requirements.
  • Turnout stock as soon as ground conditions allow. Delaying turnout until “there is a good bite in front of them” means that grass will then be growing at its fastest, fields will be understocked and grass poorly utilised.  Turning cattle out at a grass height of only 5 – 6 cm will still maintain reasonable levels of performance due to its very high feed value, even though stock will not be full.
  • Consider lightly grazing forward autumn sown cereal crops with ewes and lambs. Most importantly it will provide a “clean” environment for young calves and lambs but prevention against magnesium tetany in lactating adults will be essential.
  • A late spring is likely to supress both the quantity and quality of maize this year. Are alternative crops, such as Italian, likely to be more productive and more flexible eg could be grazed if necessary?

Basil Lowman,

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