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    Making the Most of Welcome Late-Season Grass
29/09/06

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.

 
cattle grazing

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 grass.

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;
  • Rotationally graze swards over a relatively short period – 1 to 4 days;
  • Offer 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;

Practical advice on achieving better returns from grazing is available through the Beef Action for Profit resource available free of levy payers at www.eblex.org

link European Focus On Beef And Lamb
link Monitor Stock Bull Soundness to Maximise Value
link Skipton Venue For Beef Expo 2007

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