Most pasture based dairy farmers have again successfully used the very simple spreadsheet known as the Spring Grazing Planner which is used internationally to plan spring grazing. It doesnt seem to matter if you are in Victoria Australia , New Zealand or Great Britain....it works brilliantly! Nor does it matter if you are a Spring block calver or an Autumn calver....it works well.
The issue in the UK right now is that the pasture growth is very slow over most of the country. Probably because of dryness & the lack of sunshine. Growth in some of the southern counties is 20kgs/DM/ha/day or better but this isnt happening further north.
As a consequence average pasture covers are low or falling quicker than the feed budgets were expecting & the opening covers for the start of round two dont look good. So what to do?
More Nitrogen is NOT the answer as there is not enough moisture & the soils are still cold. As the soils are dry the rotation length can be cut without damaging either soils or pasture. To do this extra feed is going to be needed. In other words deliberately employ pasture substitution to slow the cows grazing rotation.
Silage added to the cows diet will have greater impact on the amount of pasture substitution than say extra grain fed. The pasture growth rates are well below demand so slow the rotation! Extra feed is going to be required.....do you have enough silage or are you going to be buying feed.....make up your mind & act quickly.
Discussion group members from thru out the UK have reported fields with very poor growth...some of these may have been damaged by frost.....some maybe short of nutrients....what ever the reason I think these need to be grazed now. Even if they are shorter in length/pasture cover(many of these non growing pastures were last grazed in November). The grazing will help to stimulate regrowth.
Look at your Grass wedge information & perhaps replan your grazing based not on covers but on the question..."Are the pastures growing fast enough?"
BEWARE RECIPE FARMING.....This is NOT the time to be following RECIPES (eg 30% rules of thumb). These recipes are dangerous & should NOT be used.....for goodness sake you need to be working from first principles & using your up to date pasture measurements to make the decisions.
I cant over emphasise how important the grazing residual is to quality later in the spring. The current dry conditions are ideal for cleaning the pastures right out.....but this in turn might be slowing recovery!
Now is the time to start measuring pastures again. If you are confident of pasture regrowth rates I'd stick to the Spring Grazing Planner.
What do you think?
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