Increase average pasture cover to more than 1800 kg DM/ha as soon as possible. This helps increase pasture growth rates.
Slow rotation down
- Slow the rotation now to 60-80 days, i.e. (1/60th to 1/80th of the farms grazing area)
- Use on-off grazing if necessary to improve utilisation of supplements and help prevent overgrazing of pasture.
In many cases this will have occurred already. Look after your establishing new grass. More on managing new pasture here.
For any late re-grassing consider annual ryegrasses and grazing cereals rather than permanent pasture as these have greater potential in the short term to provide feed and allows for more timely re-grassing in autumn 2021. See the Alternative pasture species page for more information.
Have a target pasture cover for the end of May that you will not go below.
- Reduce the rate of decline in pasture cover during May as much as possible.
- Slow the rotation, Monitor May growth rates.
- Use available supplement to help this
- Reduce milking cow numbers or dry herd off.
Only milk on into May with caution, monitoring your pasture cover decline and supplement inventory carefully and only if your winter grazing arrangements are secure and well budgeted for.
Why get average cover to 1800kgDM/ha as quickly as possible?
Lifting average cover will better enable a pasture growth recovery. There will be higher pre-grazing covers, a more distinct feed wedge, and opportunities to further slow the rotation giving each paddock more time to recover between grazings.
Nitrogen – get it on now
- Apply 30 kg N/ha in April to all farm except paddocks to be grazed during next 2 weeks
- In 2 weeks apply 30 kgN/ha N to recently paddocks grazed
- Repeat again in May if necessary
- Expect a flush from N accumulated in the soil over the summer. This can take time to arrive as the soil microbes that activate this process also need moisture. -Consider this N a bonus
- Applied N is a low cost option: 16-32cents/kg DM depending on response rate.
- Cost cents/kg N applied =$1.60 kg N
- Cost at 10kgDM per kgN = 16 cents/kg DM
- Cost at 5 kg DM per kgN = 32cents/kg DM
- There is some Risk of nitrate poisoning when grazing N boosted grass after a drought.
Feed required to put condition on with supplement on a per cow basis
- Very well fed - Cows fed high quality supplement and leave residuals 1400-1500 kg DM/ha
- Well fed - Cows fed good quality supplement and grazing to 1100-1200 kg DM/ha residuals
- Good quality supplement = greater than 10.5 MJME to achieve CS gains
- Poor quality supplement = less than 9.0 MJME = maintenance only
How to get body condition score recovery
- Draft mobs based on priority based on age, body condition and calving date
- Match quality and quantity of feed to the priority of the mob
- Create a small mob for thin and less dominant cows
Value of cow condition
To help calculate dry-off date to reach BCS targets see our online tool
- 15 kg MS extra in spring for 1 CS gain (CS 3.5 to 4.5) @ $6.00/kg MS = $90/cow
- Reproduction benefits of 1 CS gain
= $40 per CS gain (across 2 yrs)
- Return per CS gain = $90 + $40
= $130/CS gain/cow
= $40,000 for a 300 cow herd
- Returns greater for cows less than CS 3.5 currently
If using starch and sugar feeds see Common feed supplements for more information.
Reduce feed demand
Graze stock off milking platform
- Do a feed plan for any support blocks
- Check TB/M Bovis status of any purchased grazing
- Send better condition cows away as generally more difficult to achieve condition targets when grazing off
- Tag or mark cows by calving date group to help sorting for return from grazing. (1st 3 weeks; 2nd 3 weeks)
Reviewing Stocking Rate to balance the Feed budget
Consider any reduction in the number of cows to calve this spring with care.
- The equivalent of the last row of cows milked on a farm are often the cows that have the highest costs of production on the farm and may in fact not be adding much or anything to profit. Its tempting to think you may not miss them
- Be careful that this doesn’t compromise your productivity next season
- Also be aware that this is a sale of capital stock and will there be a demand for them. Avoid fire sales.
- Facial eczema
- Young stock
- Minerals, drench (low intakes, calves stressed)
- Feed young stock, weight at mating critical
- Meal, PKE, maize silage, check diet adequate protein
- Contractual obligations for grazing agreements etc.
- Work through issues now
- Options are purchase feed now or pay later
- Get third party advice
- Remember these are exceptional circumstances and may require variations from existing contracts
- Limit the damage to this season
- You have the time if you plan and implement well
- Do a cost benefit: Cost ~$60,000 for 100 ha farm to meet feed deficit of 1200 kg DM/ha. Return could be $90,000
- Prepare and implement a feed and financial plan
- Start by growing more grass
- Slow rotation, nitrogen, re-grassing
- Source supplement
- Don’t forget young stock
- Use farmer colleagues, trusted advisor, banker, accountant