TIMING OF THE FOUR SEASONAL GRASS GROWTH CURVES. “TIMING” IS THE CONTROLLING RULE OF GRASS PRODUCTIVITY and will vary according to the growing season, local farm conditions or even down to the conditions of a particular field. The above days are an example of how the growth curve can vary from month to month during the year. Timing is related to the rate of grass recovery from the time animals exit to re-entry of the pasture?
They have a grazing pattern; the mob will graze for a certain number of hours per day, browse and spend the rest of the time ruminating. When they enter the cell and the forage is a the correct height, they take in the required kgDM/day during their grazing time and where, for example they are subject to set stocking every extra day they spend in the same paddock they take in less and less forage each day. The daily requirement dramatically declines the shorter the grass is grazed. Therefore we need to focus on calculating the required rationed kgDM the flock needs per 24 hour shift or maximum 3 days and exit at the correct kgDM/ha. GRASS PRODUCTIVITY involves the close observation of how the animal graze in the pasture, features like the structure and shape of the mouth dictates the quantity they harvest with each mouthful. If the grass is at the correct height each mouthful becomes a full productive intake of kgDM. As the grass becomes shorter each mouthful of kgDM reduces and they will still only graze for so many hours in a day’s shift and they become starved, stressed, remain hungry, underfed and undernourished. If the animal remains underfed, whether dry, gestating or in lactation, they become stressed , susceptible to disease and the GRASS PRODUCTIVITY and profitability of the farming enterprise suffers. The concern when in this condition will affect conception, lambing%, weaning%, quality and weight of carcass and meat becomes tough, stringy, and lacks marbling and flavour. Cows with a live weight of 500kg will not ingest the 13.5 kgDM a day they need if you leave them to graze below a certain GRASS PRODUCTIVITY height. The same principle applies to sheep. If the pasture is at the correct grazing height on commencement of grazing, with a cow of 500 kg live weight, on the 1st, 2nd and maybe the 3rd day will take in the required 13.5 kgDM/day, by the 4th day, her daily intake will drop down to 9.5kgDM and is starting to going hungry. By the 6th to 9th day her daily intake could drop down to as low as 4.5kgDM/day. In spite of the short fall she will still only graze so many hours per day. Sheep follow a similar pattern
GRASS PRODUCTIVITY: Where animals and nature meet.
‘When sheep and cows graze together in a mixed mob they bring different grazing patterns together, are good companions which can be a good thing.’
Some farmers like a mix, as the animals have different grazing patterns – but GRASS PRODUCTIVITY will leave it open. A mix of sheep and beef requires the GRASS PRODUCTIVITY formulas to be adjusted accordingly. However, the GRASS PRODUCTIVITY principles work for dairy, sheep and beef, or a mix of all three.
The rumen is a delicate organ and the GRASS PRODUCTIVITY farmer needs to understand its workings and design the GRASS PRODUCTIVITY program to obtain the best performance and at the same time strive to feed their animals the highest quality herbage throughout the year. ‘Ruminants can become very uncomfortable when fed mainly on grains and less on natural palatable grasses, look at ‘The Omnivores Dilemma’, on massive beef factories in USA – a very unnatural system. They pump feed into the beef animals and by the time they are ready for the market, their digestion is so messed up and acute they almost need killing to prevent the downward spiral in their wellbeing. We are monitoring pastures where the grass growth rate is in the region of 10kgDM/ha/day and for this time of the year in good, well managed pastures the grass growth rate should be in the region of 45 to 52kgDM/ha/day. The present grazing method is a mix between set stocking and a loose form of rotational indiscriminate grazing and we have noted the following;
- The sheep are allowed into the pasture too early on the “S” curve, before the grass has powered up to full production and made full use of the soil nutrients, growth hormones and FREE SOLAR ENERGY. The grazing animal is thus denied a constant succession of full bites required to maximise the growth and meat production of the animal.
- Due to the rest periods between defoliation being too short the farmer faces an ever increasing spiral towards shorter rest periods until there is no grass left and then, the winter months and next year’s spring with tired exhausted soil, pastures and the soil biology in poor condition.
- There are compounding problems such as, when the grazing animals find that they are denied a constant succession of full bites, they roam indiscriminately and in this process trample and damage the grass even more, compact the soil and in a few days return to graze that same succulent sward again and again until only the hard unpalatable forage is left.
- While this is all going on the biology of the soil also suffers, due to the compaction, the soils become anaerobic and the undesired micro-organisms who thrive under these conditions, become the predator’s and overcome the desired micro-organisms required to supply the nutrients to the forage roots and the tell-tale sign is slow grass recovery, increase of weed grasses and an increase of weeds and moss. And when the badly needed rain falls, it simple run’s off and erodes valuable top soil and takes the nutrients with it.
Having identified the above situation on the farm, we design and apply the Grass Productivity fundamental principles as an answer to this deteriorating situation.