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‘Smash and grab’ grazing and managing silage in the diet

‘Smash and grab’ grazing and managing silage in the diet

The term ‘smash and grab’ when it comes to grazing has been a common saying among many farmers when discussing grazing management over recent days. As part of its weekly newsletter, the Teagasc Grass10 team look at the options available to maximise the use of grass in difficult conditions.

Further heavy rain has resulted in difficult grazing conditions and forecasted rain - especially for farms in the south west and west - will not improve the situation. However, some farmers are managing away grazing for 2-3 hour allocations by day currently.  

The Teagasc Grass10 team advises to keep grass in the diet by day at least, if possible, as this will lower costs and keep the protein percentage up for dairy farms.

In addition, to get good clean outs on paddocks, continue to strip graze, use a back fence, spur roadways and multiple access points in order to avoid damage. While we want to keep grass in the diet in autumn, next spring is the priority now so avoid damage and grass wastage at all costs.

Review the percentage grazed and AFC now

The first couple of days in November are an ideal time to review a weather disrupted final grazing rotation. In general, the average farm cover (AFC) on dairy and drystock farms is on target at 705kg DM/ha and 639kg DM/ha, respectively, this week, which is in line with the five-year average.

However, some farms are now below 600kg DM/ha; if they need to have an AFC of 700-800kg DM/ha on December 1st, these farms need to carefully assess their final few grazing paddocks. Remember, every week delay in closing reduces spring grass supply by 100kg DM/ha.

Management of silage in the diet with on-off grazing

The Grass10 team also advises that managing the quantity of silage fed is important to avoid the risk of under grazing during closing.

Over feeding of silage will diminish appetite of the grazing animal and compromise the graze out of the sward - especially at high covers. If animals are going to grass, ensure that there is little or no silage in front of them before turnout.

Taking an example of 120 animals grazing by day and housed at night, when allocated 7kg DM of baled silage per head, this represents a total silage requirement of 840kg DM. This is the equivalent of 3.8 bales (if a bale weighed 220kg DM).

Picking your paddocks to graze in spring 2024

While closing-off is influenced by ground conditions, paddock choice during closing is critical. To start grazing next spring, some of the drier paddocks that have good grazing infrastructure with roadways and plenty of access/exit points will need to be targeted.

So these paddocks will need to be closed mid-October to ensure a good supply of grass is available to start grazing next spring. If these paddocks are not already grazed, you should be grazing them now.

For more information on the Teagasc Grass10 Campaign and to sign up to future newsletters, click here.