Grass is the most important, yet often overlooked, resource for livestock production. Well-managed grassland provides the most economic feed throughout the year, either as grazing or conserved forage.
As production costs continue to rise, there is no doubt that well-managed grassland has an increasingly important role in on-farm profitability.
Forage for Knowledge brings you the latest research and advice on grass, forage and soil management to help improve grassland productivity on livestock farms.
As we bring Forage For Knowledge to a close for the 2019 grazing season, average daily growth is down a further 5.9 kg DM/ha to 14.5kg DM/ha. Many FFK contributors have housed cows or are close to finishing their last rotation around 15-20 November.
As we look back over the 2019 grazing season, the total average grass production across our FFK farms this year was approximately 1t DM/ha greater than the 2018 average, with the FFK farms producing an average 14.3t DM/ha. The 2019 grazing season was off to a flying start with the mild spring conditions allowing early turnout and great spring growth. The average growth across the country stayed steady throughout the year but some areas did suffer from another dry summer slowing down growth rates right down. The very heavy rainfall this autumn has resulted in challenging grazing conditions with many struggling with grazing platforms being underwater for consecutive weeks.
A testament to the management of the FFK contributor farms, grass quality has remained good over the year with Dry Matter (DM), Crude Protein (CP) and Metabolisable Energy (ME) averaging 17.9%, 23% and 12.1 MJ/kg DM respectively. As expected, there is a steady incline in DM content during the drought and then the seasonal decline as the season goes on. Maintaining ME levels has been a challenge during the summer months but at the end of this grazing season ME average was reported at 11.5 MJ/kg DM.
Now is the time to sit down and review your figures collected over the last grazing season. There can be a large variation in the performance of paddocks across the farm and the best way to identify which ones are holding back the average production is to analyse all the data collected over the season. If you are using a grassland management software it will generate graphs for this purpose, but you can also produce a graph similar in excel to help you note which paddocks are performing under the average. It is worth assessing underperforming fields further to make sure soil nutrients, soil structure and sward composition are all in order, or if the field is a good candidate for a spring reseed. When considering a reseed, it is always worth looking at which fields will give you a greater amount of return in terms of increased t DM/ha.
Review your grazing season
Achieving the best possible balance between sward growth and grazing has been shown by research and experience to depend on accurate, regular assessments of sward condition.
Managing mineral nutrition for outwintered livestock
Professor Liam Sinclair discusses how to manage mineral nutrition during the outwintering period.