Beef & Lamb focus: Managing your autumn grazing

Friday, 6 September 2019

If you haven’t already, now is the time to body condition score your weaned ewes and suckler cows. Grazing management should revolve around achieving target body condition scores (BCS) in breeding stock and meeting the needs of growing youngstock.

Prioritise your highest quality grazing for weaned stock and those of low body condition score. Stock which are on target or overfat can be grazed tightly or moved onto poorer-quality pasture. These are a very useful pasture management tool as they can ‘clean up’ pastures before winter.

Thin cows and ewes need sufficient time and a good diet to reach optimum body condition - it can take 6–8 weeks to gain one body condition score on grass alone. Your target is to make sure at least 90% of your stock are at their target for the time of year. As we move into autumn, a slightly higher sward height is required to maintain intakes and body condition.

Target sward heights for autumn grazing

Type of stock

Rotational pre-grazing height

Rotational post-grazing height (cm)


Set-stocked (cm)


Lactating suckler cows




Growing/finishing cattle




Weaned/ finishing lamb




Pre- tupping




Tight grazing will help ensure the desired post grazing height is achieved.

Anything can be used to measure sward heights, a ruler, a sward stick or marks on the side of a wellington boot.

For more information, see Planning grazing strategies for Better Returns, Optimising suckler fertility and Ewe fertility for Better Returns.

To order a sward stick, email