Efficient pasture feeding has never been more important in creating strong, resilient farm systems than it is now with the current payout. One tool to really help in this is the DairyNZ Spring Rotation Planner.
“There are more issues balancing pasture quantity, quality and intakes at the start of the season than any other time as there are lots of small mobs of cows, and things are flat out with calving,” says Graham Kerr Agriseeds pasture systems specialist.
Understand the sweet spot
“But it is really important to get this right, as this sets up the cows and farm for the season, and potentially can save a lot of money on imported feed.”
The key behind this is understanding there is an ideal amount of pasture cover you can have. Having too much pasture and you lose quality, which reduces cows intake and in turn either milksolids (MS) production or body condition score (BCS).
Conversely low pasture cover means growth rates drop, which leads to either extra costs of imported feed or lost MS production or BCS. At no time is the “grass grows grass” adage more important than early spring.
The Spring Rotation Planner is a free tool which has been designed to help you make good feed allocation decisions through the first grazing round after calving, so you maximise pasture growth and ultimately cow performance.
The two common scenarios with getting it wrong are arriving at the end of the first grazing round too early, or too late.
You arrive at the end of the first round too early as you have run short of feed. This in turn drops regrowth (grass grows grass), creating a feed deficit in the second round. The remedies are either feeding additional supplement to compensate for the pasture deficit, or cow performance drops with lower MS production and/or cow BCS.
Arriving at the end of the first round too late happens when feed builds-up in front of you and covers become too high. The issue then is pasture gets past the 3 leaf per tiller stage and feed quality (ME) drops. The consequence of this is MS production drops, and usually pasture regrowth is much slower which leads to a feed deficit in the second round. Again the remedies are either feeding additional supplements, or lower MS production and/or cow BCS.
Spring Rotation Planner acts as an alert
Having a spring rotation plan lets you know when things aren’t going the way they should, so you can act quickly.
For example in a cold early spring, when growth rates are lower than expected, feeding out supplement early will help maintain cover and improve growth rates, thus reducing the total amount of supplement fed. Extra N fertiliser and gibberellic acid are other possible options.
In mild conditions with pasture cover rising rapidly you may be able to feed less supplement, increase cow pasture allowances, make baleage or reduce N fertiliser and gibberellic acid applications.
The Spring Rotation Planner poster will be included in the July issue of Inside Dairy. You can also download a copy here.
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy June 2016