Early Grazing to do list

Published 25 January 13

It's hard to believe with much of the country still under snow, but the grazing season could only be a few weeks away.  Piers Badnell, from DairyCo runs through the grazing planning 'to do' list.

  • Walking, observing and planning should have started already but it's not too late to get started!
  • Walk your grazing (when it emerges from under the snow if necessary!) to get an idea where it is still wet or has dried a bit. This will vary hugely depending on soil type and location due to excessive rainfall and subsequent flooding for some.
  • Assess sward density. One of the biggest impacts of last year was a lot of open swards - spot them now as it is easier than when they have got a lot of cover. Target those for early grazing to encourage tillering, and keep off these with dirty water/slurry so that cows do a good job first time round.
  • Look out for meetings on rectifying soil damage. DairyCo has some in the south and other organisations are holding similar meetings in other parts of the country. Or book a place on the DairyCo Webinar on soil compaction on February 19.
  • Assess grass cover. This will have a lot to do with how much snow and cold weather your area has had.
  • Make a plan as to where you can graze and when.
  • Graze fields you locked up first in the autumn or those fields that are the wettest you dare.
  • If you graze the wettest you dare and leave the drier bits for later then if you get three weeks heavy rain you have grazed the heavy ground and in that three weeks the grass grows back and does not get away from you.
  • If it is ready to graze and then it rains for three weeks, and you can't get on it for another week until soil conditions allow, then that is four weeks, by which time it will be silage grass! Grazing this will lead to excessive waste and poor re growth. Plus you have grazed the light ground so you have no grass there, and nowhere else to go. That means no feed other than buying in, or opening the pit - if you have anything in it! So graze heavy first and then the light ground, so when the rain stops the heavy ground dries out and is ready to graze.
  • Plan your fertilizer, how much and when.
  • Make sure all nitrogen is used up prior to first cut. Use it that little bit earlier if you get a weather window, for top quality.
  • Residual soil N is low so a response to a small application of urea when soil temperatures rise will probably be good.
  • Make sure low P soils are targeted with turnout fertiliser (26:13:0). This will help to get root growth away early.
  • Walk your farm. It may be too early for anything but it is in your subconscious mind and you are more likely to be a head of the game than behind.
  • There is the well known saying - what is the difference between a good farmer and the rest? About a week!