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Advice on managing grazing in September

Advice on managing grazing in September

Concentrates account for about two thirds of the variable costs of milk production.

Making the most of grazing can therefore save on concentrates and reduce costs. Good conditions, quality swards and the availability of aftergrass means your herd has the potential to produce 10-13 litres of milk from forage in September.

Planning for early grass next spring

As this is probably the last rotation before housing, what you do now will have an effect on any early grazing next spring. The timing of paddock closure and residual grazing heights now, determines the start date for grazing and grass quality next year.

Paddocks closed now will be the first to be grazed in spring.

Paddocks should be grazed to five cm or less on a rotational basis and closed for the winter.

Paddocks should not be grazed again, even if there is good grass growth in October/November.  

Paddocks closed in late November will not have sufficient grass for grazing until the end of March or April next year.

Dry cows

Findings from a number of AFBI research trials emphasise the importance of adopting good management practices to ensure health and performance during the next lactation.

Effective dry cow management ensures cows are dried off 50-60 days before calving and calve down at body condition score 2.75-3.00. If cows are too thin or too fat alter their feed to allow them to achieve this condition score at calving. Fibrous silage and straw are good for keeping the rumen expanded and working. However, as the cow approaches calving her intake declines and concentrates should also be fed. 

Why not use two dry cow groups as a means of managing condition score? Operate with ‘recently dried’ and ‘close to calving’ groups. For the ‘recently dried’ group target about 100 MJ of energy per cow daily by feeding fibrous grass silage along with a good quality dry cow mineral. For the ‘close to calving’ group, if dry cows have been grazed, they should be housed for the last four weeks of pregnancy. House them at less than 85 per cent stocking density and provide at least 75 cm per cow feed space with a clean, dry and comfortable lying area. Increase energy intake to 120 MJ. Add chopped straw and introduce a high quality pre-calver feed into the ration. The ‘close to calving’ group at Greenmount is usually offered 1.0-2.0 kg of a pre-calver feed.

One week before calving, they are moved to straw bedded pens where they are fed the same diet as the milking cows.

September jobs checklist

* Prepare or repair livestock housing before winter.

* Correct soil pH where necessary. If ground conditions allow autumn is a great time to apply lime. Aim for a pH of 6.3 to get the optimum results from fertiliser next year.

* Assess condition of young stock, especially maiden heifers. Will they be in the right condition for service?

* Are any vaccinations, for example BVD due in advance of the breeding season?

If conditions permit autumn is the ideal time to subsoil compacted areas allowing them to rest over the winter period.

Analyse silage in preparation for planning the winter diet.

Have you enough silage? Now is the time to see what you have and work out how much you need.

Under the Nitrates Action Programme 2015-2018 and Phosphorus Regulations, 15 September is the last day for sowing chemical nitrogen and phosphorus fertiliser on grassland.


Aphid monitoring and virus control

This year has seen a higher incidence of Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV) than usual.

BYDV is transmitted into winter cereals by aphids in two ways. Firstly cereal volunteers or grass weeds act as hosts for aphids after harvest. This type of infection typically causes large discrete patches of severely infected plants. To protect against this threat destroy the ‘green bridge’ in fields with weedy stubble or volunteers by desiccating seven to ten days before ploughing or allowing 14 days between ploughing and sowing.

The second source of virus infection is from winged aphids flying from grass or cereal volunteers elsewhere. This is the most common route for BYDV infection in autumn cereals. To monitor this threat AFBI, using a suction trap, monitor cereal aphid migration which is updated weekly along with advice on control.

Insecticide seed treatment, for example Redigo Deter is worth considering. Seed treatment protects emerging seedlings from both non-winged and winged BYDV transmitting aphids in the weeks post crop emergence, particularly useful where weather hampers an aphicide spray.

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