How to prepare for weather changes when grazing

Even if you’ve had a good start to spring, make sure you still have an alternative grazing plan for a change in weather: don’t be caught out by bad weather, or low silage stocks.

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Situations can change quickly, so it’s important to think about all possibilities and be prepared for extreme wet or dry conditions ahead.

Walk the platform and use grass growth data to develop two alternate strategies: a summer dry management plan, and a strategy to deal with downpours and prolonged wet spells.

Dry weather

Shorter dry spells can be managed with a preventative strategy, while farms that regularly receive no summer rain should look at break crops to fill the grass gap. Eke out grazing, and remember that applying nitrogen to vegetative growth while there is still moisture in the soil will help increase leaf size and prolong grazing. Don’t rely on dirty water in a drought: it’s a fertiliser, not a moisture source, and can lead to palatability problems if used heavily.

Anticipating dry conditions by lengthening the rotation early helps maintain a healthy sward base, which comes back two to three weeks quicker when it rains. Slowing the rotation may mean feeding concentrates, silage made from a surplus off the grazing platform, or silage aftermath grazing. Alternatively, a surplus can be deferred for strip grazing. More extreme measures to consider for drought include culling cows off the platform, drying off, or dropping to once a day milking.

Wet weather

For a wet weather management plan, identify your driest paddocks, set up a network of well-maintained tracks and have multiple paddock entries to avoid severe poaching. Plan for on/off grazing and avoid going into high covers when it’s wet to minimise grass being trampled and wasted.

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