Top Tips for Maintaining Grass Quality and Holding Production
Aiming for a fantastic season on the farm?
Laying the groundwork beforehand, including the use of good planning, is only part of the equation.
To ensure that you follow through with good results all season, hitting your monthly targets along the way, you’ll need to constantly monitor and make assessments.
When your on-farm focus moves to holding production and maintaining grass quality, you should consider a number of different management tools and options. For instance, you should consider your round length, how you intend to graze irrigated land, use of summer crops and silage, and the role of herd testing. These factors interact with each other, so remember to consider how your decisions impact your options.
By now, you’ve probably started lengthening your round (usually from early to late December). Continue doing so in accordance with your farming system to push some feed forward.
Monitor paddocks just after grazing them. If residuals are still high, consider topping to maintain quality. Cleaning up the paddock also helps to protect your herd from facial eczema, the spores of which thrive in longer grass – particularly during wet weather.
Grazing choices: Irrigated and dryland pastures
If you have both irrigated and dryland pastures on your farm, choosing which to graze when can be quite a balancing act.
At this time of year, it can help to concentrate the majority of your milking herd grazing on irrigated pastures, only grazing dryland areas when growth increases with a good rainfall event. This ensures that you have good quality feed going into milk production.
Keep in mind that your stocking rate may be higher, so consider whether you have summer crops or silage on hand to cover any deficits, so that you can maintain round length and hold production.
Using summer crops
Regular feed budgeting should be part of your management routine. This helps you achieve the best outcomes for your season.
When preparing feed budgets for the coming month, look out for the point where growth rates and demand intersect – this will indicate an upcoming deficit. Start feeding your summer crops one week prior to this to combat it.
Remember to speak to your nutritionist about whether to introduce hay at the same time. Hay can help correct natural dietary fibre (NDF) levels. Also discuss whether oaten hay or pasture hay works best with your crop type.
If you are already using BioPro DFM, you may not need to add hay because it can help cows better utilise feed. If not, consider introducing it into your ration to help optimise grass utilisation efficiency and animal health moving forward. You can order it here.
Feed out silage using the same process of feed budgeting, beginning one week prior to the intersection of growth rate and demand.
If you have summer crops, balance your silage use with these. If you are planning on preserving any silage for winter, keep your target amount in mind.
Finally, a herd test can be an invaluable tool to help you maintain production levels. Use your herd test data to compile a list of low-producing cows and consider drying them off. Supplementing with BioPro BioBoost can help maintain wellbeing during the stressful dry-off period and give them a boost as they rest up ready for next season.
Drying off under-performers will lower the stocking rate on your best pastures, allowing you to feed your top performers better. Use your dry herd to clean up and maintain your dryland paddocks, adding BioPro Vitamin and Mineral Dry Loose Lick with high strength probiotics into the paddock to prevent nutrient deficiencies. Order this and BioPro BioBoost here. You can also use the dry herd to ‘top’ irrigated paddocks after the milking herd had grazed them if residuals are still high.
By considering the above factors and how they relate to your farming system, you can maintain good grass quality and hold production through the next couple of months, helping you hit your end-of-season targets.