Making the most of spring feed
Heading into spring, it is crucial to maximise pasture growth.
Setting paddock rotations to maximise pasture quality
Normally, in early spring, as pasture growth and leaf appearance rates increase, our focus needs to shift to managing for quality.
Paddock rotation length generally needs to be shortened to help maintain grazing pressure and ensure high-quality pasture is available by reducing the rotation length.
Whether soils are drier than average or still moist, pastures will be in a much better position to give greater yield responses if they have not been overgrazed.
Locking up paddocks – how many and which ones?
As spring progresses, it is important to only drop paddocks out of the rotation for conservation that are surplus to the herd’s requirements.
Things to consider when deciding which paddocks to lock up include:
- How easy will it be to get machinery into and onto this paddock if it rains heavily?
- Pasture composition – is it a ryegrass or ryegrass/clover mix with minimal weeds?
- Is the paddock to be used for a follow-up summer crop and when does it need to be sown in relation to soil temperature, soil moisture and trafficability?
- Is the paddock close to sources of water for irrigation?
- Are potassium levels in soil excessive? Silage from these paddocks may be undesirable for feeding to transition cows.
- Maintain pasture quality by grazing at the 2–2½ leaf stage
- Keep post grazing pasture residuals at 4–6 cm
- Lock up the true surplus for conservation and cut at canopy closure to ensure quality
- Consider using N fertiliser at rates between 20–60kg N/ha to improve pasture growth rates