The recent heavy downpours in October focus the mind on the risk of damaging pasture and soil structure with grazing livestock. With excellent recent growing conditions, many farms are still carrying high grass covers so there is a desire to keep cows out, but the weather has other ideas!
Daily or twice daily allocation of grass is essential in these conditions. Allocation may have to be increased and lower utilisation accepted. Back fencing is the first and most basic tool you can use to prevent cattle spending time on the previous break. Consider fencing a temporary alleyway up the side of the paddock, to limit damage to a smaller area. This can then be easily resown and fenced off in the spring until fully recovered.
Higher grass covers will have a deeper root system, particularly if long grazing rotations (25 days plus) have been practiced throughout the season. Presence of deeper rooting species such as cocksfoot, timothy, fescue, chicory etc., will also improve drainage and carrying capacity.
Presence of dead plant material in the base of the sward will also help reduce poaching damage. This may go against the philosophy of high utilisation that we have been practising for many years!
With the right management, pasture damage can be repaired using the grass’s naturally survival ability. Grazing tight in spring, in dry conditions, will encourage tillering. The pasture should then be rested for as long as possible, to allow root recovery and to allow the grass to shade out any young weed seedlings that will take the opportunity presented to them by bare soil. This may be a time to oversow with legumes and deeper rooting species, to help reduce nitrogen usage later in the season.
On improving and extending your farm grazing season for 2022 contact Tom on 07496 760242 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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