Why grazing intervals over summer are important.
Short grazing intervals markedly reduce total pasture cover over summer as well as limiting the amount of pasture grown between now and the end of autumn.
Just as the amount of feed on hand going into winter dictates pasture covers in spring, the amount of feed at Christmas largely determines growth prior to winter.
The earliest work undertaken measuring the difference in total growth between rotationally grazed pastures compared to those set stocked indicated that with well managed grazing intervals, total yield could be more than doubled.
This is particularly the situation over summer when heat and a lack of moisture can negatively impact pasture performance.
As a rule of thumb for intensive dairy operations, and the same applies to any highly stocked enterprise, a genuine 30-day grazing interval by the end of December provides the best safeguard against tough summer growing conditions.
December, as mentioned in the last article, is the most reliable growing month in the year and a 30-day rotation means that pastures are grazed once in January, once in February, with half the property grazed in March prior to autumn rain arriving.
Over that time there will almost certainly be some rain to stimulate growth especially where pasture covers are sufficient to protect against the worst of the heat and wind.
The alternative to this approach is to shorten the grazing intervals to grab what is available now with the consequence of shorter intervals and lower covers and a sense of chasing one’s own tail. Not a pleasant experience over summer.
Longer intervals and covers also ensure maximising growing conditions that do occur over summer. Should a genuine long dry spell occur and some of the feed stored ahead is lost there’s the knowledge that best possible grazing management has been followed.
Initial regrowth after grazing is slow as there is little leaf surface area to generate the energy necessary for optimum growth.
Over summer it is only during the last 10 days of the cycle that plant growth reaches its maximum and grazing prior to simply means less total pasture grown.
Farmers maximising clover growth find this philosophy and practise highly effective. Tall clover dense pastures retain quality where grass dominated pastures become stalky, lose digestibility and are increasingly unpalatable.
Should strong summer growth occur due to sufficient moisture, and that is possible, dropping an area out of the round and making top quality hay or baleage provides extra feed that can be utilised in autumn to further the increase grazing interval prior to winter.
Clover is also a prolific seeder and a large drop of seed, a portion of which will remain viable over time, ensures that expensive seed in the future is unnecessary, just the soil conditions and grazing management is necessary for the system to be truly sustainable.
Creating the soil conditions that stimulate clover growth starts with application of extra calcium. Clover often contains 2.5% calcium compared to 0.7% for grasses. This doesn’t necessarily mean a large input of lime is necessary, however this often desirable and the amount can be calculated from a soil test.
Functional Fertiliser has CalciZest available that contains calcium in the form of lime. It also contains soft carbons to which a proprietary mix of beneficial fungi and bacteria have been added.
These microbes are important because it is only through the action of microbes that nutrient is taken up by plants. An increase in numbers speeds the rate at which nutrient is cycled and an increase in clover vigour is often obvious within 3 weeks after application.
CalciZest is available nationwide and spread through conventional groundspread equipment with the added benefit of stimulating earthworm activity thereby improving soil moisture holding capacity.
For more information, call Peter on 027 495 0041.