Pasture-based dairy farming is a balance between managing the pasture and the cows to maximise sustainable profit.
Pasture, without any input other than basic fertiliser, drives more than 85 percent profit for most farms at a $7.00 per kg MS milk price, and 98 percent at a $4.00 milk price.
By putting pasture first farmers can reap the rewards.
8 habits of a great pasture manager
We’ve identified the following habits those with great pasture management follow. Can you spot any opportunities in your own business?
Residual targets are consistently met.
Pre-graze targets are a priority.
Weekly farm walks inform decision-making.
Average pasture cover is measured and calculated weekly.
Pasture is considered a complete feed source.
Surplus is identified early.
Data is used to drive decisions.
Pasture biology is top of mind.
Grazing intensity and pasture cover affects pasture quality and production. Pasture intake is affected by the quantity and quality of pasture offered each day.
Grazing management must optimise future pasture production and quality, while maximising cow performance and milksolid production
- Control the area grazed each day (or rotation length) to manipulate pasture eaten to meet average pasture cover targets for the farm
- Estimate the area and pre-grazing cover required for the cows based on the target grazing residual and adjust after observing when / if the cows achieve a "consistent, even, grazing height".
- Make management decisions to maximise per cow production for the season not at any one grazing, the "main course principle - no dessert"
- Treat pasture as a crop - remove pasture grown since last grazing and prevent post-grazing height increasing over the season
- Have pasture cover distributed between paddocks in a feed wedge to ensure that high quality pasture is offered on all paddocks
- Keep average pasture cover above 1800kg DM/ha1/ in early spring and between 2000-2400kg DM/ha1/ for the season to maximise pasture growth rates
- Over the season the height of post-grazing residuals (cover) does not change but the dry matter mass does increase. This is the value of using "clicks" on the Rising Plate Meter (RPM) or one formula for the RPM for the season.
Want more high quality pasture? Get to know the biology of ryegrass and learn the finer points on how to grow it well.
Regular pasture assessment
You can only manage what you measure. Regular pasture assessment such as a farm walk is important for pasture utilisation.
Are you having to make decisions about whether to provide supplementary feed to your herd? This page will help inform that decision.
Using a feed wedge to make decisions
Pasture feed wedges can help make pasture management decisions easier, accurate and less stressful.
Choosing the best time to graze pasture
Monitoring ryegrass leaf stage is an effective indicator of when a paddock is ready to graze. Find out how to identify the best time for grazing ryegrass here.