If there is insufficient pasture the inter-grazing interval is reduced, resulting in pastures being grazed before the 2½ leaf stage. Pasture growth will be reduced and pasture cover will stay low until the summer.
Therefore average pasture cover (APC) at calving (and supplements available) determine how well cows are fed for the first two months after calving.
This page covers what you can do if APC is below target at the start of calving.
Calculating the required APC at calving
- APC is determined by calving rate, cover at balance date and strategic decisions about use of supplements. For most farms this APC target is between 2200 and 2400kg DM/ha.
- A formal feed budget is often not required if there is enough knowledge from previous years to determine APC at calving and balance date.
- If you are on a new farm a feed budget will help determine the amount of feed required (cover, grazing off, supplements) and predict APC at calving.
- Feed budgeting is a prediction based on best available knowledge. Therefore gather as much information as possible about the farms growth rates, soil temperature, nitrogen application, conditions that may cause feed wastage and feed intake estimates.
If APC is below target
- face your situation - walk the farm, confirm the size of any deficit and develop a plan on how to fill the deficit for the next two weeks
- share your plan, seek advice
- continue to monitor actual pasture cover weekly and adjust plan weekly or fortnightly if necessary.
Create a plan
Think about whether you can grow more pasture?
- Apply nitrogen
- Minimise pugging
- Slow the rotation (feed supplement) to increase APC as quickly as possible.
Can you increase feed supply?
- Reduce wastage to make reserves last longer
- Buy in additional feed
Or reduce feed demand and slow the rotation?
- Lower stocking rate (if possible get later calvers or dry stock off the farm)
- Prioritise stock and check intakes, cow intake at calving is significantly less than peak intake.
Read more about these options in the DairyNZ FarmFact - Strategies to manage low pasture cover at calving.
Tips and tools for getting through spring including pasture and supplement management.
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Answers to the frequently asked questions about feeding dairy cows in spring.
Perennial Ryegrass Grazing Guide
An in-paddock pocket guide to assessing post-grazing residuals, pre-grazing yields and leaf stage of perennial ryegrass.