The key objective of autumn grazing is to extend the grazing season to maximise the number of days at grass. This will reduce pressure on feed costs and slurry storage costs.
Autumn is considered the start of a new grazing year. How we manage our grass from now until the end of the year will have a strong influence on what grass we have available at turn out next spring. This is why managing autumn grass and ensuring good grazing practices are achieved are so important.
From the middle of August, farmers should have been extending their rotation length with the goal of building up grass covers to pre-grazing yields of 2000-2200 kg DM/ha in mid-September. If covers are greater than this it may result in waste, decreased utilisation and poor clean outs. All surplus grass should have been cut in August and we should avoid the temptation to cut fields now. Cutting paddocks now will result in a lack of time for sufficient regrowth for the final round of grazing.
Average farm cover targets will differ depending on the stocking rates of the farm. Highly stocked farms will have a higher demand for spring grass therefore paddocks will have to be closed earlier. Every farm is different so a farm specific plan will be required, taking into consideration weather conditions and growth rates.
The final grazing rotation
Aim to begin closing paddocks in early October, with the target of having 60% closed by the first week of November and fully closed by the end of November. When grazing in the autumn, it is important to achieve post grazing residuals of 3.5 to 4 cm. This will allow sufficient light reaching the base of the sward and reduce tiller death over the winter period. It is important to keep in mind that 60% of the grass available on farm next spring will grow between now and the winter period.
Top tips for autumn grazing:
- Aim to extend the grazing rotation
- Use a back fence to avoid the grazing of regrowth
- Utilise strip grazing or smaller allocations to encourage good graze outs
- Utilise meal feeding to reduce grass demand
- Keep an eye on grass dry matter percentages and supplement accordingly
- Walk the farm once a week to assess growth and ground conditions
It has been long highlighted the advantages of having optimal soil fertility. Late autumn/early winter is an ideal time to soil sample your land. It is recommended to take at least 20 soil cores, 4 inches deep, every 2 to 4 ha. Take a representative sample by walking in a W shaped pattern across the sample area. Allow a minimum of 3 months after the last P and K application and a minimum of 2 years after lime application before taking samples. Managing your soils begins with assessing the fertility of your soils. After all, you can’t manage what you don’t measure!
For more information on autumn grazing and soil management, please contact a member of the Target Fertiliser team on 053 9255389.
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