Heading into winter it is critical we have lots of high quality pasture on hand, pasture growth rates decline as the days shorten and our soils cool down.
To manage our pastures we monitor the pasture cover in each paddock every 10 to 14 days at this time of the year. Pastures are measured using an electronic meter to determine the kg of dry matter (kg DM) per hectare. The sensor is trailed behind our quad bike taking 200 measurements per second and matching the location of the measurements via GPS with the paddocks name.
The data collected from these measurements provides us with an understanding of how much feed we have available for our cows. A feed wedge graph is created to identifying potential feed surpluses or shortages.
The sloping line represents our desired pasture cover. The cows are due to eat paddock 18 next and they have just come out off paddock 11, where they did a great job of eating what was offered to them. Today’s measurements show a slight pasture surplus, the average pasture cover for the farm today was 2413kg DM/ha, right where we want going into winter.
Pasture growth rate and leaf appearance interval is monitored to ensure our pastures are getting an appropriate rest interval between grazings. For the last 12 days our growth rate has averaged 27kg DM/day and our ryegrass pastures are producing a new leaf approximately every 14 days. We aim to graze pastures when each tiller has 3 leaves, giving us a desired grazing interval of 42 days.
This may sound like a complex approach to some thing seemingly simple like growing grass. Our pastures are integral to our business, with out grass we have lots of hungry cows, it is a case of look after the simple things and many other parts of the operation fall into place.