Using the Autumn Rotation Planner on beef farms
Alan Dillon, Teagasc Beef Specialist, discusses implementing an autumn rotation plan, which can allow farmers to plan out how much grass can be utilised each week heading into the autumn, to keep priority stock out for as long as possible, while also having enough grass cover in spring.
While the recent good spell of weather was badly needed on farms to improve ground conditions and encourage grass growth, It possibly has made some farmers forget we are fast approaching the start of the last rotation on farms before the winter period sets in.
A typical sight on farms come November and into December of livestock roaming semi bare tracts of land while being fed meal in troughs or silage in a ring feeder might avoid housing and a build-up of slurry in tanks for a few extra weeks but in reality this practice is leading to a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul as grass eaten into winter is taking away from what grass will be there in spring to turn stock out to.
Following an autumn rotation planner for your farm will assist in planning out how much grass can be utilised each week heading into the autumn to keep priority stock out for as long as possible while also having enough grass cover in spring so as to allow farms to take the decision to turn out in February and March should the weather and ground conditions allow.
For farms with a number of different land blocks, some of which may be of varying soil types a number of autumn rotation planners may be needed to be completed.
Putting the aim of the autumn rotation planner simply. The target is to have 60% of the farm (or farmlets) grazed by early November. While favourable weather in October may bring higher covers of grass than anticipated in some years, generally the advice is to not regraze these once they are closed up. The remaining 40% of land can be grazed into the November/December period by lighter stock once ground conditions allow. These will be typically the last paddocks grazed next spring and may be where the first slurry applications go out on the following year due to low covers. The autumn rotation planner is outlined in Table 1 below.
Table 1: Autumn Rotation Planner
As can be seen from Table 1 a 100 ha farm is used for simplicity but a farmer can use this by working out the same percentages for his own farm size. For a heavy farm, 12% of the ground is closed weekly from September 25th until the 60% target is reached at Halloween. For a drier type soil, 15% of the farm is closed each week from October 9th with the higher 15% closed weekly until 60% is hit on November 7th.
While it may seem too early to close up ground on some farms in early October. It is the practice of grazing on swards for those extra few weeks that leaves farmers with little grass the following spring if weather conditions do allow turnout. The video below outlines the benefits of planning your grazing strategies this autumn.
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