Rejuvenating swards: Which option is best?
Maintaining grass quality during mid-season grazing is important. Farmers can maintain quality by entering ideal grazing covers of 1,300 – 1,500kg DM/ha, and grazing down to a residual of 4cm every rotation.
If you are now in a situation where cows are not cleaning out paddocks as well as they should be, leading to the development of steamy grass within the sward, here are some options.
Common options for rejuvenating swards include:
- Take a silage cut, probably into bales, remove the material and start again with the aftermath;
- Youngstock and dry cows can be used to increase the stocking rate on the milking platform;
- Topping paddocks after grazing can also be done;
- One other method is to pre-mow and graze the cut material.
The question is: which option is best for maintaining grass quality and sustaining production on your farm this grazing season?
Research has shown that pre-mowing will negatively effect your system in several ways.
Pre-mowing will increase the workload on the farm, with more time spent on the tractor and mower. This will lead to increased costs – including diesel – while also increasing wear and tear on machinery.
Pre-mowing poorer quality grass or covers that are too strong for grazing, will lead to a fall in production.
Similarly, it is advised to keep topping to a minimum as it is very labour intensive and delays pasture regrowth.
On average, one round of topping to a height of <4.5cm should suffice from mid-May, to late June.
Youngstock and dry cows
Increasing the stocking rate on the milking platform can also be a useful tool for maintaining grass quality during mid-season grazing.
Depending on the growth and grazing management on the farm, this can be a viable option for some.
Your best option is the removal of surplus grass (paddocks with more than 2,000kg DM/ha) as round bale silage.
Paddocks that have gone too strong should be skipped and baled immediately, so they are not lost out of the rotation.
Similarly, paddocks that have a large amount of dung pads or steamy grass should be skipped and mowed for bales.
Making bales – rather than pre-mowing or grazing, then topping paddocks – ensures that cows are grazing the best quality feed, and that high-quality bales can be used later in the autumn or as part of the winter feed requirement.