A look at qual­ity and quan­tity in pas­ture

Warragul & Drouin Gazette - - HAY & SILAGE FEATURE -

from Agri­cul­ture Vic­to­ria

Pas­ture in­take per cow de­pends on hav­ing high-qual­ity pas­ture and enough pas­ture avail­able/ha.

This is a very chal­leng­ing bal­ance in most spring con­di­tions but is pos­si­ble to achieve. Ro­ta­tions lengths need to be long enough to get crit­i­cal vol­ume, and resid­u­als need to be low enough to get qual­ity next time the pas­ture is grazed.

Set aside pad­docks for si­lage when resid­u­als are get­ting higher and be cut as close as pos­si­ble to graz­ing height (si­lage qual­ity will de­ter­mine pro­duc­tion when the si­lage is fed).

Con­sider the use of ni­tro­gen to boost pas­ture pro­duc­tion and po­ten­tially min­imise the use of ex­pen­sive sup­ple­ments.

Pas­ture re­sponses of 10-20KgDM/ha for every kg of Ni­tro­gen/ha are com­mon in spring and rep­re­sent very good value for money if you need and/or can utilise the ad­di­tional feed grown.

Some pad­docks may still need re­pair­ing due to pug­ging dam­age and can be rolled if soil mois­ture al­lows.

If they are badly dam­aged, they could be ren­o­vated with pas­ture or cropped de­pend­ing on the pad­dock char­ac­ter­is­tics, farm sys­tem, lo­ca­tion and its char­ac­ter­is­tics.

Es­ti­mate your si­lage and hay re­quire­ments for the com­ing year. Spring can be a good time to source ex­tra feed for good qual­ity si­lage. A fo­cus on fod­der qual­ity will lead to more milk pro­duced by cows when it’s fed.

Watch for pas­ture pests such as lucerne flea and con­sider con­trol if you think they are dam­ag­ing pas­ture. This may look like slower pas­ture growth than ex­pected and/or a dull-look­ing pas­ture. Ap­pli­ca­tions of fer­tiliser may sig­nif­i­cantly boost pas­ture and crop growth rates if your last ap­pli­ca­tion was in au­tumn.

Cash flow, bud­gets & cost con­trol

A pos­si­ble process to ex­plore your break-even milk price is as fol­lows:

Break-even milk price is to­tal ex­pen­di­ture less stock sales di­vided by the to­tal planned milk solid pro­duc­tion for the farm.

It is the milk price you need to re­ceive to have a cash break even for the year. If you have not done it yet, use open­ing milk prices and es­ti­mated costs to de­velop bud­gets for the year.

Look­ing to re­duce costs where pos­si­ble with­out com­pro­mis­ing the sys­tem in the long term, look in ar­eas such as:

Grain and ad­di­tive price, fer­tiliser use and price, shed power, in­sur­ance costs, AI and join­ing costs, re­pairs and main­te­nance costs.

Mon­i­tor your bud­get as the year un­folds. This will as­sist with de­ci­sion mak­ing and cost con­trol as the year pro­gresses.

En­sure you have avail­able cash to en­able good in­put tim­ing in spring. To get the ex­pected pas­ture and or milk re­sponse to in­puts, tim­ing of the in­puts is crit­i­cal; this of­ten de­pends on farm­ers hav­ing avail­able cash to make th­ese in­puts.

A dis­cus­sion with your bank about cash flow through the sea­son may al­low im­proved cash flow for im­proved in­put tim­ing.

When the mar­gin be­tween spring milk price and grain price is very fine or you need to get over one litre of milk as a re­sponse to a kilo­gram of grain to break even.

Re­mem­ber, when feed­ing grain the last kilo­gram fed is likely to get the low­est mar­ginal re­sponse in pro­duc­tion; it’s the law of di­min­ish­ing re­turns. In ad­di­tion to this, per­fect pas­ture man­age­ment is key to higher pas­ture con­sump­tion of a more prof­itable dairy sys­tem.


Take the op­por­tu­nity to feed cows as well as pos­si­ble, check the mar­gin be­tween milk price and grain price, con­sider the likely milk re­sponse to feed­ing an ex­tra kilo­gram of grain to cows to as­sist your de­ci­sion.

Record de­tails of any non-cy­cling cows or cows with calv­ing dif­fi­cul­ties pre-mat­ing, and have a plan for how to deal with them. Don’t wait for the end of the mat­ing pe­riod.

Make a de­ci­sion on your mat­ing pro­gram de­sign to main­tain calv­ing pat­tern and dates.

Choose se­men or bulls that will as­sist in de­vel­op­ing the type of cow that suits your farm sys­tem. The ef­fi­cient con­ver­sion of feed in­puts into milk solids will come more eas­ily from cows that are well bred and suit the sys­tem.

Pre­pare bulls for join­ing, Get them tested be­fore you get them work­ing and en­sure you have enough bull power (enough bulls for your ex­pected cows on heat af­ter AI).


Calves should be given ac­cess to clean wa­ter, pel­lets and a fi­bre source from day one.

They can be weaned when they are eat­ing one kg per day of pel­lets for two or three con­sec­u­tive days. This usu­ally oc­curs by about six to eight weeks of age if all is go­ing well.

Weaned calves should weigh at least 75kg for Jer­seys and 100kg for Friesians, at two to three months of age.

Spring is here, grass is grow­ing and so are the weeds.

Rag­wort, this­tle and black­berry are some of this area’s most trou­ble­some weeds.

With rag­wort start­ing to emerge in its rosette stage now is the time to start an early con­trol pro­gram on your prop­erty.

Rag­wort can be sprayed with an ap­pro­pri­ate her­bi­cide right up to flow­er­ing stage, usu­ally around Jan­uary it will start flow­er­ing.

Be­fore the flow­ers start to turn to seed it is pru­dent to re­move flower heads be­fore spray­ing. Bag flower heads in a black plas­tic bag and leave in the sun to de­stroy any vi­able seed.

Every Rag­wort plant that’s seeds will dis­perse thou­sands into the sur­round­ing area in­fect­ing not only your prop­erty but prob­a­bly your neigh­bours as well.

This­tles are also on the move some al­ready com­ing up to flow­er­ing stage, one again early con­trol is de­sir­able sav­ing on her­bi­cide use in the long term.

You can start spray­ing black­berry usu­ally around Novem­ber on­wards. Be­fore and up to flow­er­ing is the best time. They can be con­trolled right through to April bear­ing in mind once they fruit the birds and foxes will start spread­ing the seed.

And a re­minder that the Catch­ment and Land Pro­tec­tion Act re­quires that de­clared nox­ious weeds have to be con­trolled or erad­i­cated. So get onto weed con­trol early and main­tain ef­fec­tive fol­low-up weed con­trol.

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