Managing your grazing quality and preparing for autumn

Date published: 16 July 2020

As we approach mid-July, the grass supply on most beef and sheep farms is potentially becoming more difficult to manage.

Hannah McNelis, CAFRE Beef and Sheep adviser, Coleraine discusses grass covers with farmer David Alexander from Ballymagorry, Strabane. This image was taken prior to COVID -19 restrictions coming into place.

Grass at this time of year tends to have more supply than demand unless good management practices are in place to maximise surplus and quality. Therefore as August approaches, farmers in this position find themselves performing a balancing act between managing the quality of grass ahead of cattle or sheep for good liveweight gain and ensuring there will be sufficient cover for livestock to see out the grazing season.

Hannah McNelis, Beef and Sheep Adviser at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) said: “Walking the farm on a weekly basis is essential. Growth at this time of the year can see fields getting strong very quickly. Where grass covers are getting ahead, earmark the field for bales as forcing cattle or sheep to graze out heavy covers is of no benefit to performance or sward graze outs.

“Aim to graze fields out as close to 4cm as possible without pinching priority growing stock such as lambs or store cattle. Where growth is strong, groups of priority stock can be moved on quicker and dry stock may be available on farm to clean out the paddock. Topping will also be required to tidy up graze outs if necessary to ensure a clean regrowth.

With second cut being taken over the next few weeks, the whole grazing area of the farm will soon become available. Based on your soil analysis, apply fertiliser to ensure grass growth continues in the autumn.

“Remember that while growth is currently relatively strong, this supply will start to reduce as we approach the end of August. Grass covers will need to be built up in areas of the farm to allow sufficient grazing for sheep in advance of the breeding season and for cattle prior to winter housing.

“Also, remember that where grass dry matter falls in unsettled weather, supplementary feeding of beef cattle may be required to drive daily liveweight gain. The recommended rate of feeding finishing stock at grass in autumn is 0.5kg concentrate per 100kg liveweight with good Autumn grass and where grass is scarce or of moderate to low quality, 1kg per 100kg liveweight.”

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