When to graze grass

What is the best grazing height and residual length?


  • Total voters
    35

Jdunn55

Member
So following on from the discussion in all things dairy, when's the best time to graze grass?
My butterfat is low - too low really, it was around 3.8-3.9 but has dropped over the past 10 days to 3.6
I can obviously increase that by feeding a fibre source which is what I'm doing currently as grass is not growing very fast atm due to a lack of moisture, however in a normal time when grass is growing I shouldn't be doing this

What @Cows 'n grass said about grazing higher covers resulting in higher fibre (more stalk) and also being more resilient when grass growth is slow made perfect sense to me. The higher fibre would obviously help my butterfat

However I also understand that grazing higher covers = lower me and therefore less milk

Whats best?
My cows are more than capable of bringing a cover of 4000 down to 1600, so I'm not worried about being unable to hit the correct residual
Thanks
 

Kiwi Pete

Member
Livestock Farmer
It's a good question... how long is your rotation?

IME the higher your pregrazing covers the better, simply for the reason you can allocate less m² per cow per day and gain more control

having cows spread out generally means things are much less resilient than they need to be, cows rumen pH is unstable and the lifespan of the cow is reduced, problems compound and in general costs go up
 

Jdunn55

Member
It's a good question... how long is your rotation?

IME the higher your pregrazing covers the better, simply for the reason you can allocate less m² per cow per day and gain more control

having cows spread out generally means things are much less resilient than they need to be, cows rumen pH is unstable and the lifespan of the cow is reduced, problems compound and in general costs go up
It depends on how fast its growing tbh, I've been aiming for covers of 3000 because that's what the book on "being a good farmer" says but I have been wondering if that's too short myself. I'm on fourth round on some of my ground (grazed end of january/beginning Feb, again mid March, again beginning of April and again now) those covers were 2800, 2600, 3200 and the last one wad 3000.
Round length when grass is doing 50kg/day would be about 25 days

However, my wetter ground I'm only now getting onto second round and the covers are a lot higher. All this ground will be going into herbal leys this year (already planted 10 acres last year - very pleased btw hence full steam ahead this year). From what I know about herbs and legumes they like less frequent grazing (ideally a month between each graze) which would result in higher covers. Once fully planted I aim to be 2/3 herbs and 1/3 ryegrass so there is the opportunity to do a bit of both, grass the ryegrass shorter but the herbs longer?

Below photos are fields before and after grazing with longer covers than I normally graze

The reason they haven't been grazed sooner is because I was hoping they'd be fenced by now so I didn't have to mess around with electric fencing
 

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I think the key is to always be flexible and have a good understanding what's going on on your own farm.

Anyone walking across my farm for the first time today would think it looked great but growth rates gave dropped from 76 to 52 to 22 in the last three weeks but I'm still turning into near perfect looking covers of 32-3400. I've just upped the cake from 2.5 to 4 kg to push the round out to 35 days. I also have 50ac of 5000 cover that should have been cut and baled last week but will now be pre mown for grazing this week.

If we had 2in of rain tonight I would skip the the next 100ac of planned grazing and be turning into covers of 26-2700 because with moisture at this time of year you would be growing 100 next week. They will milk better on 2700 than 3500.

Apart from 2018 we have had no measurable rain in April for 6/7 year now. Dry springs appear to be the new normal

Be flexible, know your numbers and keep an eye on the forecast.
 

Kiwi Pete

Member
Livestock Farmer
It depends on how fast its growing tbh, I've been aiming for covers of 3000 because that's what the book on "being a good farmer" says but I have been wondering if that's too short myself. I'm on fourth round on some of my ground (grazed end of january/beginning Feb, again mid March, again beginning of April and again now) those covers were 2800, 2600, 3200 and the last one wad 3000.
Round length when grass is doing 50kg/day would be about 25 days

However, my wetter ground I'm only now getting onto second round and the covers are a lot higher. All this ground will be going into herbal leys this year (already planted 10 acres last year - very pleased btw hence full steam ahead this year). From what I know about herbs and legumes they like less frequent grazing (ideally a month between each graze) which would result in higher covers. Once fully planted I aim to be 2/3 herbs and 1/3 ryegrass so there is the opportunity to do a bit of both, grass the ryegrass shorter but the herbs longer?

Below photos are fields before and after grazing with longer covers than I normally graze

The reason they haven't been grazed sooner is because I was hoping they'd be fenced by now so I didn't have to mess around with electric fencing
Yeah, I get you. I had major rows with a certain farm consultant a previous employer used because he apparently wanted me to dig a hole and throw money into it..... I personally felt comfortable on about a 36 day "fastest round" but you may be more summer-safe than where we were.

In the context of ryegrass + urea you almost have to graze too frequently to keep it stoked along and then it's really prone to falling apart with a few weeks of no rain or cold temperatures.
Really just what cows n grass said above, you always get it wrong but getting it less wrong saves a whole ton of money
 

sidjon

Member
Location
EXMOOR
We would be on the very extreme cover grazing, currently cows are going into 3200 and dropping it to 1400, with 3kg of maize blend currently on 25 day round and farm cover is stable, this doesn't suit everyone and give heart attacks to anyone who is new to grazing, every farm is different and management needs to be flexible, make quick decisions and stick to them, have to pull paddock out for summer crop over next week if the ground softens up a bit ,but if not will have enough 🤞bales to stretch out a dry spell.
 

Tirglas

Member
Location
West wales
So following on from the discussion in all things dairy, when's the best time to graze grass?
My butterfat is low - too low really, it was around 3.8-3.9 but has dropped over the past 10 days to 3.6
I can obviously increase that by feeding a fibre source which is what I'm doing currently as grass is not growing very fast atm due to a lack of moisture, however in a normal time when grass is growing I shouldn't be doing this

What @Cows 'n grass said about grazing higher covers resulting in higher fibre (more stalk) and also being more resilient when grass growth is slow made perfect sense to me. The higher fibre would obviously help my butterfat

However I also understand that grazing higher covers = lower me and therefore less milk

Whats best?
My cows are more than capable of bringing a cover of 4000 down to 1600, so I'm not worried about being unable to hit the correct residual
Thanks

pros and cons but you will just have to decide what you prefer in your situation. Advice on here is just our own preferences on our farms.

a high pre grazing cover will require a longer round length but should over the year grow more grass because the growth will be very fast on big covers. a long round and high AFC buys you time ahead of a drought.But regrowth will be slow initially because the base will be pale and open.

Consistently going for a high pre grazing cover can waste your ryegrass potential if your always going past the ideal 3 leaf stage and allowing one leaf to die off ungrazed. Another consideration is trying to manage your grass through the heading period and at high covers you will lose quality quicker. If you like topping it's no worries.

if you were on a shorter round with going in at 2500-2800 it would be easier to hit target residual and the initial regrowth should start quicker as the base would be greener. Going in low is a good option if your stocking rate and demand is low because grass quality will be very high

on the wetter ground I would try to go in at low covers to give a bigger area per feed and less damage potential as a result.

Are you sure that it's the grass that's driving down your fats?

But to your question, when it's growing fast going in low at a fast round results in making less bales. if you need surplus grass off the platform for silage or your sure you'll be tight of grass go longer. My vote is the first option.
 

In the pit

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
Pembrokeshire
pros and cons but you will just have to decide what you prefer in your situation. Advice on here is just our own preferences on our farms.

a high pre grazing cover will require a longer round length but should over the year grow more grass because the growth will be very fast on big covers. a long round and high AFC buys you time ahead of a drought.But regrowth will be slow initially because the base will be pale and open.

Consistently going for a high pre grazing cover can waste your ryegrass potential if your always going past the ideal 3 leaf stage and allowing one leaf to die off ungrazed. Another consideration is trying to manage your grass through the heading period and at high covers you will lose quality quicker. If you like topping it's no worries.

if you were on a shorter round with going in at 2500-2800 it would be easier to hit target residual and the initial regrowth should start quicker as the base would be greener. Going in low is a good option if your stocking rate and demand is low because grass quality will be very high

on the wetter ground I would try to go in at low covers to give a bigger area per feed and less damage potential as a result.

Are you sure that it's the grass that's driving down your fats?

But to your question, when it's growing fast going in low at a fast round results in making less bales. if you need surplus grass off the platform for silage or your sure you'll be tight of grass go longer. My vote is the first option.
Big question of output milk/solids and managing your grass to grow the most at the best quality
A lot of us try but we seldom get it right if ever as the weather is the biggest problem
 

Tirglas

Member
Location
West wales
Big question of output milk/solids and managing your grass to grow the most at the best quality
A lot of us try but we seldom get it right if ever as the weather is the biggest problem
Also depends on the motivation, milk volume or milk price. Turnover or leftover. Feeding the grass wedge or the individuals within the herd.
 
Big question of output milk/solids and managing your grass to grow the most at the best quality
A lot of us try but we seldom get it right if ever as the weather is the biggest problem
That's the important bit, I think. We don't get it right every day but we tend to get more right days as our experience of management improves. As the cheapest high quality input we have, it really pays to maximise the potential of grass as much as is possible for us.
 

Glosherds

New Member
I'm on a cheese contract and so solids are important here. It's my first year and definitely balancing quality and quantity of grass and milk is a challenge for me too.

Definitely far from getting it right all the time but I aim to go into covers around 3200 and to come out around 1600, we are calving until the end of May (started at the end of March) so I don't push the cows any harder than this at the moment but I think grass quality doesn't really suffer at these residuals, especially if you rotate silage paddocks and use pre-mowing when necessary if rotation length increases for example. Anything over 3200 I will consider pre-mowing as I personally think its is hard to get cows at peak yield to graze to good residuals much over this and regrowth quality would suffer.

On the butterfat side:

Are you worried about the level from a cow health point of view or is it just that your contract rewards high solids? If just the latter then I would work out at what level it actually matters. For example, if I up my fat by 0.25% I get roughly an extra 1ppl on my price so a cow doing 20L a day gives an extra 20p. If my current price is 40ppl then I would only need to drop by 0.5L per cow for this to cancel out any gain from upping the fat.

What cake are you feeding if any? I am feeding a HDF cake, I only feed 1.5kg a day at the moment so its more about not exacerbating the problem I guess.

As I say I am far from getting all these things right all the time but hope that helps.
 

Jdunn55

Member
Thanks everyone, I've only now gotten around to reading this. On the butterfat side of things, I'm more worried for a cow health perspective and also because I don't want roddas to be breathing down my neck telling me I'm being naughty.
It has risen since they've been on higher covers, up to 3.8% - strangely the silage didn't do as much as I expect, I think it needs to be more like haylage
I would ideally like to stick above 4% if possible just so I know my cows are healthy and it will keep roddas smiling. Its not the monetary value I'm worried about - pays me to make more litres than it does to make less litres but higher butterfat.

I guess the honest answer is I need to do more plate metering (currently rely on a rep who comes out every 2-3 weeks and does half a dozen fields), I've applied for one under the grant but haven't actually ordered it yet. How often does everyone plate metre? I guess it's something that needs doing weekly to stay on top of things?

Cake wise, they're on a 16% HDF nut, fibre is high but so is me. Autumns are having 2kg and springs are on 8kg.
Ive been wanting to drop the springs back because I don't think they need that much now they're grazing day and night but I've held off as we haven't had any rain for a month.
I'm tempted to drop it back now we've had a bit of rain and next week looks nice and wet, but I really need to know grass will keep up with demand if I do.

I know it will depend on weather more than anything, but if I planned to graze it for the first time at around 3000kg (february-march) and then for second round increase that to 3400 (late march-april) would that be such a bad thing? Then if it rains I can drop them to 3000 for third round but if not keep them at 3400 in May?

Grazing is far more difficult than silage that's for sure.
I don't need to take any silage off the grazing platform. If there's the opportunity to do so then great but I don't need to rely on that. I did do 20 acres this year which I regret cutting, and in future I'll graze that field first (february) and then won't plan on cutting it unless theres plenty of rain around - in which case I'll cut it at the end of May and bale it instead of chopping it (my silage ground wadsready to cut at the end of april)
 

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Man fined £300 for bonfire-related waste offences

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Written by William Kellett from Agriland

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A man has pleaded guilty at Newtownards Magistrates’ Court to waste offences relating to a bonfire next to the electrical sub-station on the Circular Road in Newtownards, Co. Down.

Gareth Gill (51) of Abbot’s Walk, Newtownards pleaded guilty to two charges under the Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997, for which he was fined £150 each and ordered to pay a £15 offender’s levy

On June 25, 2018, PSNI officers went to Gill’s yard, where they found a large amount of waste consisting of scrap wood, pallets, carpet and underlay.

Discussion with Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) officers confirmed the site...
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