Grass is the most important resource to a dairy enterprise and maximising use of grazed grass can offer a huge opportunity to increase profits. With production costs rising, focusing on growing and utilising more, high quality grazed grass will reduce the requirements on purchased feed which in turn, will improve profit.
Having a flexible approach to grazing, combined with planning for different situations, will allow you to adapt to the different requirements of various seasons, says ForFarmers Forage Product Manager Mel Digger.
Maximising grazing is achieved from:
“The best fields on farm can typically grow twice as much dry matter as the poorest. Improving the yield and quality of the lowest yielding fields up to or above average will significantly reduce your reliance on purchased feed and improve milk from forage yields,” says Mel.
“At different stages of its growth, grass varies in the speed it grows. Maximising the days that grass is growing quickly will produce a greater volume of grass in the overall season."
“As the chart shows, grazing grass at 2,700Kg DM/ha down to residuals of 1,600Kg DM/ha keeps the grass at its optimal range of growth."
"Grazing below 1,600Kg/DM/ha will slow regrowth and lose valuable growing days. Grazing covers that are too high will lose both growing days and grass quality."
“Ensuring that the grass tastes good will allow livestock to have the appetite to graze hard. Sodium containing fertilisers, such as Sweetgrass, will greatly enhance palatability and optimise grass utilisation,” she adds.
“Planning your grazing will avoid over or under grazing. If grass supply outstrips demand more area will need to be conserved as silage, otherwise the oldest grass will slow in growth and feed value will be lost. However, a shortfall in grass supply will mean that grass might be over grazed if buffer feeding is not increased.”
When rotationally grazing the aim is to keep growing grass as quickly as possible and achieve the best nutritional quality. Managing a feed wedge to maintain a cover of between 2,000 and 2,200kg/DM/ha will help achieve this. It is also important to manage covers on individual grazing areas.
By regularly measuring grass covers in each field a wedge can be created. This will highlight areas which need grazing sooner to utilise their full quality, or potential feed deficits where a grazing rotation needs to be slowed and potentially a buffer feed to fill the gap.
“As grass varieties are constantly improved, reseeding can produce over £500/acre of potential extra milk production,” says Mel. “Using new improved varieties can yield 33% more than a typical five-year ley and over the next four years DM yield will be 10% higher.”
Assessing grazing paddocks is crucial to maximise production. The benefits of a new ley will last many years over an existing one. However, over time these benefits will decline and will be dependent on:-
Nutrition – Maintaining the swards nitrogen, phosphate, potash and sulphur requirements.
Soil health – Maintaining the correct soil pH and avoiding compaction.
Weed Control – Maintaining an appropriate weed control programme.
Grassland Management – Reducing ingress of native species (weed grasses) which are of lower production and nutritional quality.
Topgrass Dairygen is a long term intensive grazing mix and is aimed at those pursuing more production from grazed grass. It’s benefits are:
For more details about maximising your grazing, grass seed or for forage advice, please contact your local account manager or send us an online enquiry:
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