It doesn’t need saying that this year has presented a real challenge for herds that graze their cattle with the May-July period being both the hottest and driest on record. Katie Fitzgerald from our new Derbyshire practice, takes us through the stats and Autumn pasture management tips…

Grass growth has varied considerably between regions, with differences of up to 90kg DM/ha noted around in the country through August. Whilst the West of the practice appears to be beginning to bounce back following some rainfall in the last weeks, recovery is slower further east and through Derbyshire.

At a recent AHDB Forage for Knowledge meeting in Nottinghamshire, pasture consultant Andre van Barneveld discussed some strategies to focus on in the coming months. Whether your herd is a focused grazing system or you are grazing some of the cows for part of the year, maximising your grass growth can contribute to improved efficiency in your system with an additional tonne DM/Ha being worth up to £334 /Ha

‘Avoiding Long Grass is the Key to Success!’

This may seem a strange statement given the lack of grass most of you are faced with, but pre-grazing covers remain crucial to both utilisation by the cows and grass recovery. Allowing grass to grow too long can lead to the tillering point sitting above 4cm. This will then be lost if you achieve your target residuals of 4cm and 1500kg DM/Ha. It takes both time and energy to establish new tillering points which will lead to slower recovery. Aiming for pre-grazing covers around 3000kg DM/Ha will leave more leaf surface area across the farm to utilise sunlight, resulting in higher pasture growth rates when there is moisture available.

August is generally a ‘clean out’ month where focus should be placed on hitting 4cm / 1500kg DM/Ha residuals. Achieving these residuals can be a challenge if you are buffer feeding the cattle, with buffer feeds displacing dry matter intakes but focusing on hitting these targets will leave you with good quality utilisable grass through September.

Planning for Spring

A long final rotation will leave you with a steep wedge and conversely a short final rotation will leave your wedge flatter. Lower covers will also recover better in late autumn to give you a better chance of hitting the target average farm cover of 2150-2000kg DM/Ha at housing.

Winter Forages

Winter forage supplies will be a real concern, with many people making up the deficit through feeding winter forages now. Budgeting your forage is critical. Work out your silage clamp quantity:

Length (m) X Width (m) X Height (m) = Cubic metres of silage.

Typically silage at 25% DM will be roughly 180Kg DM/cubic metre. For example, if your pit is 40 metres long X 20 metres wide X 2.4 metres high = 1920M³ X 180Kg DM = 345.6 Tonnes DM.

Bales can vary from 180 to 300Kg DM/bale, so ideally you need to weigh a few bales and either test or accurately estimate the DM% to work out DM/bale. A typical 800Kg bale at 25%DM is 200Kg DM.

There is no place for passengers in the system this winter so make careful decisions on retaining poor cattle or carrying surplus youngstock. Yearling heifers will need around 0.8T DM/head, so ensure you only carry those that you require for replacements.

If you want any advice ahead of the late autumn and winter feeding period, please just speak to your vet.

Grass AHDB