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Feeding out - while you are there spare a thought for your pastures

Utilization of all feeds is a crucial part of any farming business. While you may understand all this yourself, does your team? If they don't you could lose or waste up to 20%, and that's a lot of feed at this crucial time of the year.

So what are the issues? You should feed out 2 days ahead onto ungrazed pasture, except in case of maize, silage, which must be fed out daily. It is best to start the break grazing at the back of the paddock and work forward to the gate. Why, because it allows you to get in and out of the paddock and reduces pugging around the gate area.

Breaks are best back fenced to prevent damage and overgrazing. Some farmers set up an on-off system on a paddock-by-paddock basis. That is to prevent overgrazing which reduces the recovery once the cows have had their 3 hours say then put them back on the original break. Why, because pasture needs enough leaf left to restart the process of photosynthesis. The process is sunlight on leaves and nutrients from the roots meeting in the leaves to form sugar. If your pastures are grazed to the dirt there is little left to restart the process. Make sure your breaks are square, not oblong. This prevents stock walking up and down the break and pugging.

If you do get some damage, a bag of grass seed is handy for oversowing. It is amazing how much you can do with a bucket of seed. Of course, if it gets really wet the cows can come and stand-off in yards, races. I covered my cowshed yard with an iron roof, which worked a treat. The cows were warm, dry and happy. I notice Cow barns are starting to appear on farms. There could be a trend, but it is expensive.

Maize silage feeding is also important. You need to have plenty of room for the cows so that there is not too much pushing. You can feed out along a wire, again an ungrazed pasture. If that doesn't work put it in little mounds so the cows can get around them. Maize silage is expensive and does need special care to avoid wastage.

How hard do you graze with your milkers? This is also a crucial part of your business. You really need to take the pastures down to 1400 to 1500 cover to avoid quality problems later. You don't want to overgraze either, as they will run you short of feed. You need to feed supplements at a variable level to try and maintain that balance of feed intake for milking, removing pasture cover and so on.

It is all a balancing act along with the myriad of decisions you are making in the spring.

Remember pasture is your cheapest feed source and you need to do everything you can to improve and maintain them. I have a client who undersowed his whole dairy farm with privately sourced seed from the South Island. The results are spectacular. Pastures do get tired and run out and all successful farmers are undersowing or improving pastures species.

In summary, these are some of the issues around pastures and feeding out. It is a really busy time of the year but care and utilization of the number one production criteria, food, is very important. Make the effort and production will be consistent or better, fail to at your own peril.


 

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