The tremendous flush of late-season grass growth stimulated by good
rainfall from August onwards provides beef producers across England
with a valuable opportunity to make-up for grazing liveweight gains
sacrificed to the summer drought and potential shortages of conserved
forage. However, the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX) stresses
that careful management will be essential to ensure the best utilisation
and animal performance.
Providing grassland management kept on top of high peak
growth rates in April and May, ‘hard grazing’ during
the drought will have produced good leafy late-season swards with
excellent potential for supporting liveweight gains.
September sward analyses at the Duchy College in Cornwall, for
instance, show ME contents of over 11 MJ/kg DM and protein levels
of more than 25% in grass with an average dry matter of just under
14.7%. Very similar to the college’s early May analyses,
these results support reports from other parts of the country indicating
a surprising amount of nutritional value in this autumn’s
Combined with recorded levels of daily grass growth nearly 10kg
DM/ha greater than this time last year, the potential for beef
production from late-season grazing appears particularly high.
All the more so if the recent annual trend towards warmer, more
open back-ends continues.
As well as helping to make-up for liveweight gains from grass lost
over the extremely dry summer, of course, making the most of late-season
grazing will do much to help conserve drought-affected stocks of
hay and silage.
Since autumn grass tends to have relatively low sugar contents
and high levels of rumen degradable protein, some supplementation
with balancing high energy concentrates may be advisable. This
will be most cost effective for growing & finishing cattle
where avoiding a growth check at housing is vital.
To make the most of this season’s late grass bonus EBLEX
advises English producers to:
- Confine supplementation to stock that need it – mainly
those nearer to finishing;
- Avoid wasting supplements on stock
that can achieve compensatory growth next season;
graze swards over a relatively short period – 1 to 4 days;
straw to grazing stock to help slow the rate of grass passage
through the gut;
- Keep stock off any pastures that become very
wet for a day or two; and,
- Be aware of the increased risk of grass
staggers from very lush swards;
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