Maximising the spring surplus!
3 October 2018
Spring is always a critical time on farm, particularly when trying to capitalise on the spring surplus to make as much high-quality forage as possible.
Agriculture Victoria and WestVic Dairy are encouraging farmers to access available information, develop a plan and make timely decisions in relation to the current season. During spring, pasture growth and leaf appearance rate increases. Rotation length will need to be shortened accordingly to help maintain grazing pressure and ensure that high quality pasture is available for the herd.
It’s critical to try and maintain a rotation based on leaf stage. Focus should shift to grazing at 2 leaf stage or canopy closure, whichever occurs first. This will ensure that pasture quality is maintained and shading at the base of the sward is minimised. As spring progresses its vital to only lock up pasture for conservation that is surplus to requirements. In most years, pasture growth will generally exceed cows’ requirements in early to mid-September.
The key to spring pasture management is to ensure:
- The rotation is shortened to maintain pasture quality and change your grazing indicator from 3 – 2 ½ leaf stage to 2 or canopy closure, whichever occurs first.
- It is important to only lock up pasture for conservation that is surplus to requirements.
- Consider using nitrogen fertiliser at rates up to 50 kg N/ha, and ensure pasture is cut within six weeks of application.
To assist with conserving as much high-quality forage as possible, consider using nitrogen fertiliser to increase dry matter yields. However, cut pasture within six weeks of application. Research has shown that once cutting is delayed beyond eight weeks after application of nitrogen fertilisers, the pasture quality declines more rapidly than if no nitrogen is applied. This will result in large quantities of low quality silage, which is unsuitable to feed cows in the early stage of lactation.
It was also found that by using rates of nitrogen of 50 kg N/ha, responses of 18 kg of dry matter per hectare for every kg N applied, six weeks after nitrogen application can be produced. It has been shown that spring applied rates of about 50 kg N/ha are likely to produce the most efficient growth rates. Numerous other trials have shown that rates of between 40 and 60 kg N/ha are the most effective. Using higher rates of nitrogen usually results in lower responses. When using nitrogen, it’s important to remember that you should target your best paddocks, which are usually the paddocks that have good pasture species and good soil fertility.
When planning forage conservation, be prepared to cut when the perennial ryegrass component of the sward is just reaching early ear emergence. In most years this is normally about the last week of October to the first week of November.
For more information about Agriculture Victoria and WestVic Dairy support to dairy farmers preparing for and managing dry seasonal conditions contact Michele Jolliffe on (03) 5561 9914 or head to our dry seasons support page.
You can also contact WestVic Dairy on (03) 5557 1000 or head to dairyaustralia.com.au for local information for south-west dairy farmers on managing through the feed shortage.
Contact Name: Mel Curtis
Contact Number: (03) 5561 9938
Categorised under: Agriculture