Maintaining beef growth rates at grass
THE second half of the grazing season is usually the problem time for animal performance from grass. Having gained weight at over 1kg per day in the early part of the season, the objective is to keep cattle going at about 1kg per day from grass alone during July and August.
Cattle in the final weeks of finishing before slaughter will respond to 2-3kg meal per day even with good grass. For the other store cattle, meal feeding is not an option so they need to be kept to a good potential gain on mid-summer grass of about 1kg/day. A second objective now is that of managing grass swards properly in order to achieve maximum utilization into the autumn.
With many drystock farms on a one cut silage system, the whole grassland area will be available for grazing at this stage. This means that there should be no great pressure on grass supply and indeed many cattle and sheep farms can take out an area for baled silage about now which supplements the first cut silage. The heavy spells of rain throughout the first fotnight of July had led to delays in harvesting baled silage on the smaller livestock farms As a result, the supply of aftergrass has not come on stream and grass has become scarce on some farms. Furthermore, the under-grazing during late May and early June has led to overgrown stemmy pastures of low quality and poor growth now. If grass is scarce, the silage area should get about one bag or equivalent per acre after harvest.
Silage aftermath will be of good quality if grazed before it gets too strong and while the energy content of the forage is not as good as spring grass, it is capable of giving 1kg liveweight gain per day.
These silage fields should be grazed in rotation allowing cattle about three-four days to graze out each paddock. Large silage fields can be divided by temporary electric fencing to give better utilization. From now on, try to avoid making baled silage from surplus grass unless the winter feed is really required.
It is now time to start building up grass covers to take stock through the autumn. Graze out the fields with the highest grass cover in sequence and manage the rotation to increase the number of grazing days in reserve to 25 by the end of August. During August, as paddocks are grazed out, spread about 25kg nitrogen/ha. (20 units/ac) if required to build up a reserve. The best response to nitrogen will be got on soil that is low in nitrogen, such as silage fields after giving a high silage yield, or fields with low clover. Do not apply nitrogen to good grass/clover pastures if you want to get the most from clover and to retain it in the sward.
As grass growth slows in September, the rate of senescence or leaf decay also slows and this allows for a carryover of grass grown in August to be utilized in September and October. The grass grown on paddocks in September can be retained for grazing in late October and November. This entails planning the grazing and closing of paddocks so that cattle have a supply of fresh grass up to housing.
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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