‘Use it or lose it’ is the clear message for livestock farmers with unusually abundant grass covers as we move into autumn.
According to Helen Mathieu of forage experts Germinal GB, many parts of the country continue to see grass growth well ahead of an average year, with soil temperatures remaining relatively high. This is an opportunity not to be missed, she insists, and failure to capitalise could even be counter-productive.
“The current flush of autumn grass that many livestock farms are experiencing is an asset that offers the potential to reduce feed costs and save silage stocks,” says Helen.
“Those who are rotationally grazing and planning for early turnout, the aim should now be to build a wedge, which means grazing fields down to about 4cm and then shutting up areas destined for the earliest bite. For others, who are set stocked or continuous grazing, our advice is to take advantage of the mild and relatively dry conditions by leaving stock out as long as possible.
“If swards are left too long going into the winter, it can create a haven for pests and increase leaf disease risks, or result in damage through winter-kill.”
The advice from Germinal is to go into the winter with grass swards around 4–8cm (1,500 to 2,000kgDM/ha). This can be achieved by taking late silage cuts, or using sheep or youngstock to graze late into the autumn for as long as ground conditions allow.