Spring is a busy time on all farms. Traditionally now would be the time farmers start getting cow paddocks ready for the turn out. However, with recent storms and a high amount of rainfall, some land are either saturated or waterlogged.
This weather has affected many first-grazing targets. Teagasc recommends that the farmers aim to have grazed 30% by the end of February. But due to continuous rainfall, this target may be unrealistic for some.
With Spring grazing considered an important factor in increased animal performance, it also aids the farmer financially (as animals will need less ration) and will help recondition swards for the year ahead. Using weather apps or watch the forecast can will keep farmers informed and allow time to prepare should an opportunity arise to get calved cows out to grass.
While difficult conditions remain, a practice that farmers may find helpful is ‘on-off grazing’. Similar to strip grazing, this is a technique where cows are let out to graze a particular fenced off area but are brought straight back to housing once they have eaten their allocation.
Tips for On-Off Grazing
Below are some tips on how to start and implement on-off grazing.
Firstly, walk the farm and establish grass supply. Farmers should identify the driest fields and paddocks most suitable for grazing. Some farmers may already have a plan in place but it is important to be flexible.
When looking at the land consider positioning, width of roadways and field access. Also look at the positioning of water troughs. Temporary fencing may need to be put in place to cater for these factors. Ensure you have the equipment needed for temporary fencing i.e poly wire with a standard or geared reel, pig-tail or plastic posts, electric fencer, galvanised earth bars and lead out cable. These are all available at your local FRS Fencing store.
When selected the field/paddock, ensure the grazing area is back fenced. If possible, farmers should aim to target the lower cover of grass first.
It is also recommended to allow cows to build an appetite before turn out. This is so they eat grass instead of damaging the pasture.
Farmers should consider the animals they are putting to grass. Cows who have calved earlier in the season are better suited as newly calved cows are known to pace through paddocks/land and may damage ground. Aim to avoid over poaching of paddocks and pick the best possible time of day, in terms of weather, to let cows out.
Be Able To Adapt
Farmers may need to adapt their overall yearly grazing plan and extend targets where needed. Unpredictable weather can have implications for the coming year and can affect grassland management. Farmers need to be flexible with their approach.
As wet weather prevails, farmers should also consider their own personal safety and take necessary precautions when working. We would recommend wearing wet gear and suitable footwear with grips. Around the yard, ensure that pathways to sheds and machinery are kept clear to reduce the risk of slips or falls. Keep a charged mobile phone and always remain vigilant during storms.
For all your fencing needs contact FRS Fencing. FRS Fencing have serviced the contract fencing needs of farmers for 40 years and provide top quality DIY fencing materials and supplies coupled with expert fencing advice. For more information about the equipment you may need for on-off grazing you can contact your local FRS Fencing office on www.frsfencing.ie.