Winter dairying

Grass offers highest rate of returns

ENTHUSIASTS of grassland-based systems from across the country gathered at Worcester recently for the 2011 Pasture to Profit conference, organised by the Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) and the British Grassland Society (BGS). Katie Lomas reports.

Investment in land improvement, resulting in growing and utilising more grass, has the highest rate of return on any investment a farmer can make.

This was from Adrian van Bysterveldt, from Dairy New Zealand, who said if this investment was made when income streams were high it could also help set the business up for periods of low returns.

“Growing more grass is one of the most important ways of increasing the amount of pasture utilised.

“If you want to raise production per hectare then you have to start by lifting the cow’s ability to graze more grass and this is simply done by growing more grass.”

Mr Bysterveldt said it was important to start looking at paddocks and record how much they were growing, identify why there were variations in production and then do something to rectify it.

He said it was important to firstly sort out drainage, then the soil pH, and then look at trace elements before considering re-seeding.

“Drainage needs to be 1.5m deep and it can have an immediate effect on the land development. Think about creating contours that sheds water.”


He also said there needed to be some sort of compromise between pasture utilisation and stocking rate and it was not profitable ‘to try and achieve maximum utilisation’ as this would only lead to a loss of cow performance.

“You need to aim to harvest about 80 per cent of the grass you grow; by doing this you should get a fairly high feed efficiency conversion.

He added it was important cows remove enough material to achieve good pasture quality and advises grazing down to a height of 3.5-4cm.

“This will keep the swards leafy and actively growing but you don’t want to leave too much in front of the cows.

“Cows get to the point where they lose their drive to carry on grazing; the more they have in front of them the more they leave.”

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