Autumn is an important time of year to think about taking a bit more care to manage grass to maximise animal performance, without ramping up costs.
This is a fresh grass analysis taken from a customer not far from Crediton. This highlights the potential still left in fresh grass at this time or year.
It is often said that grass loses its quality as the summer progresses and it is difficult to maintain peak performance while grazing, but I would disagree with that. The biggest problem is getting the animal to eat enough to fulfil its dry matter intake requirements, not the quality of the grass.
If you look at the sample of grass analysed above, the grass is boasting 29.5% crude protein and a useful amount of energy at 11.5ME. The dry matter is low at 11.8% and this has becoming our limiting factor. The wetter the grass becomes the more the animal has to eat to fulfil its Dry Matter Intake (DMI)
For beef and sheep farmers this is a good opportunity to lengthen the time at which cattle and lambs are performing out at grass. Also to ensure that ewes going to tup are being supplied with enough nutrient to maintain a rising plane of nutrition to maximise lamb output and gain some condition ready for lambing.
If we take cattle at grass as an example. In order to grow at a target of (minimum) 1kg live weight per day, a 300kg store bullock will need to eat 7.5kg of DM per day. Based on this grass analysis that would be up to 65KG of fresh grass per day, which for an animal of that size is not attainable. By comparison if these bullocks where eating silage at a DM of 35% (ideal analysis of 15% CP and 11.5ME) they would only need to eat 22kg of fresh material to reach the same goal.
So by feeding some good quality bale silage (at 35-45% DM) or a small amount of concentrate (at 86-88% DM) this can very quickly top up the DMI from grass to meet the animals total DMI, ensuring that production is not compromised.
There are added benefits to keeping animals out at grass later into the year, such as better animal health, no housing costs, less labour costs and so on. These should outweigh the extra cost of feeding concentrates or silage, but most importantly the returns from maintaining growth rates on cattle, increasing lamb output and ewes growing in condition able to yield and feed more lambs.
Grazing is the cheapest source of feed in your farm and learning to look out for some of the pit falls, and being able to manage it, to maximise the potential, will aid in profitability of your farm.