There are many reasons to measure grass on your farm. Firstly, you will know what grass is available on farm. This will help match your supply with demand; grazing covers at a level suitable for your herd’s demand. Recently, adequate moisture coupled with high daytime temperatures results in high grass growth rates. However, many farmers are not reacting quickly enough in controlling the high growth with the end result being that the cows are grazing covers that are too high.
Heavy covers of >1,600kg DM/ha will have an increased amount of stem, making it harder for the cows to clean out to low residuals (
Where does the farmer see the benefits?
First, cow condition will improve. A cow grazing high energy grass will allow her to produce milk whilst also putting on body condition. Good cow condition results in more cows holding to the first service and more cows will be in-calf at the end of breeding.
High quality grass has a UFL value of 1. This may be the same or better than the UFL value of concentrates, depending on the quality of the meal. This can save the farmer money as the amount of concentrates in the diet can be reduced or removed altogether.
You can increase milk protein with good quality grass. Figure 1 shows the difference in the milk butterfat and protein levels from 2014 to 2015. The farmer in 2014 had been measuring grass but not using the information to the full potential. In 2015, the farmer decided to keep measuring grass and use all of the data every week to make decisions. Ultimately the farmer had more confidence in dealing with surpluses or deficits as they occurred and importantly prevented his cows grazing covers which were too high.
There is a significant increase of the percentage of milk protein, shown in Figure 2. In 2014, the average protein % was 3.2% from April-June. This year, the average protein % has increased by +0.21% to 3.41%.
If the cows averaged 27.5l at 4% butterfat with 3.2% protein = 1.98kg MS.
If the cows averaged 27.5l at 4% butterfat with 3.41% protein = 2.04kg MS.
The improvement in milk solids increases the farmer’s profits. The increase in milk protein was mainly due to the weekly farm walks and sticking to the subsequent decisions. The farmer grazes low covers, between 1,200kg – 1,400kg DM/ha, which contain highly digestible, leafy grass that results in a high level of utilisation. He avoids pushing heavy, stemmy covers in front of the cows; and in this instance, takes out these paddocks as quick as possible to get them back in rotation. Walking the farm, grass measuring and using the grass wedge is key to making the best grassland management decisions which will benefit your cows and your pocket.