Through measuring grass, you will know the amount of grass that is available on your farm which will allow for better grass management. Once you know your grass covers, you will be better able to match supply with the herds demand. Matching supply and demand will ensure that paddocks are grazed out tightly (<100kg DM/ha) and increase grass utilisation. Low residuals are needed so that grass quality in the next rotation is of high quality. Knowing what grass is available on your farm will allow you to foresee surpluses and deficits. You will be able to take action more quickly and deal with the problem. Farmers who do not measure grass and do not put an emphasis on grass management may notice surpluses too late – resulting in grazing heavy covers (poor future sward quality) or baling heavy covers (poor regrowths).
Measuring the grass will give you the weekly growth rate on your farm. Growth rates vary from farm to farm depending on factors including soil type, fertiliser applications, sward species, soil moisture, farm location. Knowing the growth rates that are specific to your farm will assist you in predicting the following week’s growth rates with only one factor in mind – the weather. This information will help farmers’ further control surpluses/deficits and budget grass during the shoulders of the year.
Assessing paddock residuals is an important aspect of grass management. Good graze outs are considered to be <100kg DM/ha or 3.5-4cm. This will promote tillering and improve/maintain the quality of the sward in the next rotation. Poor graze outs are considered to be <150kg DM/ha or >4.5cm. The main problem with high residuals in paddocks is it can result in stemmy grass in the following rotation. By mid-May (depending on heading dates), the grass plant exits the vegetative stage and enters the reproductive stage. The main tiller contains the seed head and grows quicker than the other tillers up until mid-June. Not grazing tight will allow the seed head to continue upwards and the plant will become stemmy from that point down. This part has poor feeding value and low digestibility so it will affect milk yield and milk solids if they are forced to graze it. Grazing or mowing too low residuals (<100kg DM/ha) is recommended to remove the stemmy part of the plant.
Budgeting grass in the spring period, from Feb-mid April, will maximise grass utilisation and achieve good graze outs that are needed for the main grazing season. If you manage grass sufficiently well from mid-April to August, it will maintain a high energy value (1 UFL), high crude protein content (16-28%) and a good level of NDF (38-42%). Cows that have a maximum daily requirement of 17kg DM per day will be able to support themselves on grazed grass only in the diet.
Software programs (Agrinet, Kingswood & PastureBase) are available for farmers to upload information such as grass measurements, fertiliser applications, milk records, soil sampling and reseeding. Once grass measurements are uploaded, the program creates a grass wedge for you along with important figures including grass growth, cover/cow, average farm cover, daily demand and target pre-grazing covers. The grass wedge is used to help make decisions for the following week.
Grasstec teaches farmers how to measure grass and how to interpret the grass wedge once the information has been gathered. Our consultants educate farmers through one-on-one meetings or in small groups by meeting on a regular basis. We teach the farmer how to use the software program to get the data they need from it. Grasstec consultants will advise farmers on how to manage grass throughout the year in order to maximise the amount of grazed grass in the cow’s diet. Also, we show farmers how to budget grass using the autumn and spring rotation planners available on the software program. Budgeting grass in these periods will help farmers maximise the amount of grass that is grazed in a controlled manner.