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Adapting summer plans: grazing ideas

12 April 2020

Some may find themselves with more stock over the summer as a result of Covid-19 and interference with stock sales.  This will put greater onus on grass utilisation to increase the stocking potential of the land.

Rotational grazing reduces the grass wasted from an estimate of 50% (under set stocking) to 30-20%.  This reduction in waste means we can stock at greater stocking densities if required.

The first step: create smaller fields.

It is that simple.  Using an electric wire to half a field and moving the stock from one half to the other will give the pasture more rest and reduce the opportunity for the stock to waste.  Granted, you will need to consider water trough placement to achieve this – a permanent trough may dictate where the wire is put, e.g. if it is in the corner of the field, can you put the wire across diagonally?  Alternatively, a temporary water tough can be put in the centre of the field.  The ideal rest period in the spring-summer will range from 15 days to 30 days; this can be achieved with two paddocks if stocking pressure is not too great, but ideally, you would want a series of fields to provide adequate rest.  For example, I want to move every 5 days, therefore I require at least four fields to provide a 15-day rest period.

Prioritise those that need quality nutrition.

Ewes and lambs and growing/finishing cattle.  We cannot afford to delay the sale of youngstock.  This may mean creep feeding but pasture can do the job if grass quality is maintained.  These animals should not graze lower than 5cm.  Use cows and calves to tidy up behind them – cows are better at utilising poorer quality forage.  Failing that use a mower.  These priority animals should be going into green leafy pastures with clover to keep them growing.

Take silage opportunistically.

The best quality silage can be made when fields are skipped in response to fast grass growth and the grass is harvested for silage.  The key indicator: the height of the grass when stock are going into a field.  If this is exceeding 10cm, the grass is growing faster than the stock are eating it – take a field out for silage.

Making more from grass is certainly not simple, but quick wins come from splitting up fields more and prioritising the growing animals.  Our FAS Rotational Grazing Guide provides more detail.

Poppy Frater for the Farm Advisory Service

Related Downloads
Rotational Grazing
Rotational grazing is a great tool for new entrants as well as established farmers, as it enables greater stocking densities. Those with fewer opportunities to gain more land, or using seasonal lets, can expand flock or herd size through better grassland utilisation – rotationally grazed grass is better utilised grass

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