The service consists of regular visits by our consultant to the participant’s farm where the three steps of measurement, budgeting and management are put into action. The regularity and number of visits in the year is tailored towards the expertise of the farmer and all levels of expertise are catered for.
Grass measurement is the building block to the service. We establish a discipline and regularity of grass measurement with the farmer. This is made easy by teaching the farmer a clear understanding of measurement techniques and tips of how to interpret grass covers (eye balling), speeding up grass walks without compromising accuracy.
- Paddock cover (kgs DM/ha) on each paddock to determine Average Farm Cover.
- Dry matter, dry matter digestibility, metabolisable energy, and crude protein of paddocks ready to be grazed.
- Post grazing sward height and its effects on sward quality, tillering, persistency and grass yield.
- Grass growth – as the difference between the cover of un-grazed paddocks between measurement days.
- Paddock residency and its effects on re-growth.
- Leaf to stem ratios in the mid-season.
- Milk Yield
- Milk Solids
- Protein %
- Fat %
- Body Condition Score
- Live weight (if available)
- Fertiliser & Slurry inputs
- Concentrate & Silage inputs
- Paddock rotation sequence, residency period and rotation length
All relevant data collected during the farm walk is inputted into a computer program which allows us to generate a Feed Budget and a Grass Wedge.
The feed budget is the most important farm management tool that is used during the grazing season especially in the Spring and Autumn. It takes into account the main factors that allow us to match grass supply with demand. Targets are set for the grazing platform at key times of the year and the feed budget is established to outline the sequence of events that must take place to achieve such goals. Critical to an accurate feed budget are; accurate paddock areas, accurately predicted calving spread, stocking rate, dry matter intake and grass growth rate. Using the feed budget we can operate very successful backward planning which allows us to hit key targets, for example the ideal closing cover in the Autumn to facilitate early turnout and subsequent reduction in concentrate costs.
A grass wedge is a visual appreciation of the distribution of the grass on the farm, and when used with a target line, is now established as the most valuable tool to optimise mid-season grassland management.
Grass growth rates are changeable throughout the summer and an examination of a grass wedge offers the best method to make timely decisions, adjusting demand accordingly. The computer programs used make this decision making process easier than ever before.
The use of sward measurement and budgeting techniques listed, allows for informative decisions to be made with regard to the day-to-day and week-to-week management of the grazing platform. Management must be flexible to accommodate fluctuations in the growing season due to irregular weather conditions and the subsequent low growth and poor grazing conditions. Through the grazing year, we identify nine targets which are set for the farm. They include;
- Opening Farm Cover
- Spring Rotation Plan and %’s Grazed in 1st Rotation
- Magic Day Farm Cover
- Mid-Season Farm Cover or Cover/LU & Demand
- Late August Farm Cover
- Autumn Balance Date Farm Cover
- Autumn Rotation Plan and %’s grazed in final rotation
- Closing Farm Cover
These targets are key to successful grassland management on-farm. While the general targets are common across all farms, they are prepared unique to the individual depending on:
- Location of the farm and local climate
- Growth pattern on the farm
- Soil type
- Grass species
- Farmer expertise
The evaluation of measurement and budgeting over a number of grazing seasons will also allow us to make informed decisions regarding the future direction of the farm, for example, potential for increased utilisation, optimum stocking rate and reduced concentrate inputs, optimum calving date for grass supply and growth, and reseeding strategy. These global decisions can have a huge impact on farm profitability, but can cannot be made without the 3 steps of grass measurement, grass budgeting and management.