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Delayed Closing Now Will Cost You in the Spring

Autumn is the optimum time to start thinking of next Spring’s grass supply and Autumn grass budgets are the ideal way to plan ahead for maintaining grass in the diet for as long as possible, while also ensuring the farm will have sufficient grass when Spring comes.

Now we are hitting mid October, a number of fields should already be closed. Despite above average soil temperatures, don’t be tempted to go back and graze closed fields; even if grass growth remains strong. What is grazed now won’t be available in the Spring, and each day delay in closing will reduce farm cover by 15 kg DM/ha next Spring.

Below are some general guidelines for Autumn grazing management, but the optimum closing and opening cover for your farm will be determined by the stocking rate and the individual farm.


Autumn Grazing Targets

  • Final grazing rotation should last 30 – 40 days with the first fields closed around the 1st October (drier farms or further south can close 10th – 15th October)
  • Remember the 60:40 Rule – aim to graze 60% of the farm by 31st October with the remaining 40% grazed in mid–November (drier farms can delay these dates by 1 week approximately)
  • Close the drier fields which are sheltered/close to the yard first, as these will be the first grazed in the Spring
    • Then close the wettest fields
    • Then close the remaining fields
  • Graze well to encourage plant tillering – aiming for a residual of 4cm or 100 kg DM/ha
    • Poorly grazed fields in Autumn will result in decaying material over the winter and this will have a negative effect on Spring grass supply
  • Heavy cattle that are to be finished over the winter should be housed first
  • Block grazing and back fencing are useful tools. Use a strip wire and moving animals once a day will improve utilisation
    • Using a back fence will help improve utilisation on heavier covers
  • Closing cover should be approx. 600 kg – 650 kg DM/ha. Optimum figure will be determined by your demand for grass in the Spring (Stocking rate and calving intensity)
  • Spring opening cover of 750 –800 kg DM/ha

Sample Autumn budget for a 20 ha farm

Always keep your target closing cover in mind. Continue to walk the farm and once you hit the target closing cover, it is time to stop grazing.

 

Farm size 20 ha
Closing start date 15th October
Target dates 60% grazed by:
5th November
40% grazed by:
1st December
Number of days From closing start date to 60% date
21 Days
From 60% date to housing date
26 Days
Hectares to be grazed 0.6 x total area
0.6 × 20 ha
= 12 hectares
0.4 x total area
0.4 × 20 ha
= 8 hectares
Hectares to be grazed per week
(Total area/ number of days) x 7
(12 ha /21 days)x 7
= 4 ha/week
(8 ha/ 26 days) x 7
=2 ha per week

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