Many farms are not where we want to be in average pasture cover (APC) for this time of year.
Growth rates have dropped back this winter to perhaps more normal long-term averages, catching a few out. This combined with sodden soils mean that what grass is there is hard to utilise.
Soils are wet so it is very easy to make mud anytime it rains. As hard as it feels, all efforts made to reduce mud will ultimately be rewarded with better pasture growth rates for the rest of the season.
Here are a few basic pointers for reducing mud:
• Make pasture breaks square.
• Have supplements and breaks set up in advance.
• Have bail out options to drier paddocks where possible. Be prepared to change half-way through a paddock to start a new paddock.
• Move stock at daybreak.
• Stand cows off on cowshed yard and/or feed pad.
• Draft out Springers and calving R2s which can be moved on in area in the evening if necessary. The Lates should be stood off.
• Put cows to the back of paddocks first so if standing cows off they walk over the pasture, reducing soil damage (yes, some pasture will be sacrificed).
• Accept BCS what it is now, and focus on conserving pasture with the correct round length and by feeding supplements.
Spring rotation planner
The first 90 days of the new season is vital to ensure feeding of all the different mobs is aimed at maximising the production and profitability of the farm. If this is not done properly, then underfeeding can lead to poor milk production, high rates of BCS loss and poorer reproduction results.
To help avoid this, a spring rotation planner (SRP) can help to keep you on the right track through the eight hectic weeks of calving. By using this simple tool you can relax knowing that you are in step with where you need to be at any given date from the planned start of calving (PSC) to when feed supply matches feed demand.
Why should I use one?
The SRP does not get used to the same extent that it has in the past due to the steady intensification of farm systems where supplements are more often being fed through spring than what occurred 20 years ago. For these farm systems where no supplements are fed through the spring, if you manage your pasture poorly then you can quickly fall into a hole of low covers and under fed cows.
Even though through there is now greater use of supplements in spring, the accurate management and allocation of pasture through the spring is still best practice as this helps ensure that your cheapest source of feed (pasture) is not wasted.
How does it work?
A SRP allocates more area each day to be grazed from the start of calving from a winter round length (eg. 90-100 days), through to when feed supply (pasture growth rate and supplements fed) matches with cow demand.
In the Waipa region, this is usually around mid-September. At this stage you want to be on the round length that suits your stocking rate to maintain this round through October and November, which is usually around the 21 day mark.
The most simplistic SRP can be created by drawing a straight line on a piece of paper from your PSC (eg. July 15) to feed balance date (eg. September 10). The round length (days) is on the Y-axis from 1 to 100 days. The date is on the X-axis. See the example below.
Where can I get one from?
Either create one yourself following the examples above, or there is one on the DairyNZ website which allows you to put your own farm details in and print off the results.
At FarmWise we have a more detailed version of the SRP that puts in your calving rate and supplements available for feeding.
This therefore allocates pasture and supplements more accurately to your dry and milking cow mobs, to ensure each mob is being fed at the correct rate.
If you haven't used a SRP before, try one this year to ensure the best use of pasture and feed on farm, and enjoy the benefits of a more relaxed spring, and better feed management.