Effective grazing management for beef production 

 

Beef Grass Management Project 2014

The aim of the Beef Grass Management Project is to improve the amount and quality of grass

grown on farm and its utilisation by beef cattle. By providing stock with top quality grass

consistently throughout the grazing season, optimum growth rates can be maintained in all ages of

grazing stock. Rotational grazing of different groups of cattle should enable farmers to build up

grass in the autumn, extending the grazing season for stock and to carry grass over the winter to

allow for early turnout in February. This project is being carried out at Cilrhue Farm, Boncath,

North Pembs, which is owned and managed by Mrs BH Davies and her sons John and Edward

Davies. They are keen to see how much costs can be saved in rearing stock to the point of finishing

with this system and to find out what stock growth rates are achievable.

 

The farm extends to 214 acres of owned land, with an additional 93 acres being rented on annual

lets. The farm is predominantly down to grass with about 20 acres of wholecrop grown in summer

and seeded to rape for the outwintering of cattle. This also forms part of the reseeding policy of the

farm. Stock consists of about 600 head of cattle and calves of varying ages. The farming system

consists of buying in 7-10 day old calves from local dairy farms, rearing on a grass/forage diet to

about 24 months old and finishing on grass silage / wholecrop / concentrate diet to go straight to

slaughter. The stock are bought in batches in the spring and autumn and consist of three main breed

types of Friesian,Dairy Shorthorn and Hereford crosses. Historically, the stock have been grazed in

small groups over the farm with about 150 of the 'big' cattle housed in a cubicle and slatted floor

shed and finished on the silage / wholecrop / concentrate mix. Approximately 100 are out-wintered

on rape and silage bales.

 

For the project, grass growth and quantity are measured every two weeks (weekly in the month of

May) to find out how much grass is grown and which paddocks the stock should be going to. With

this information, we can also plan which paddocks need to be dropped out for silage as they are too

strong to graze, without running short of grass! Along with the measurements of grass growth and

quantity , grass samples are taken every month to monitor what is the quality of the grass being put

in front of the grazing stock. To monitor stock growth rates, they are weighed once a month. To

assist with this task the Davies' have invested in an electronic identification system (EID) which

makes the collecting of this crucial information relatively easy. This device will download to a

laptop/tablet where the growths rates are calculated,and you can pick out any 'poor dooers' for a bit

more TLC!

 

To date, grass growth has been similar to previous years locally up until March. However, April saw

a surge of growth of more than 30 % more than average, with May also being above average. To

cope with the good gowth, due to measuring of paddocks, some have been dropped out for silage

with groups of cattle being added to to increase demand on certain grazing areas.

 

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The photo above shows a good example of good post and pre grazing covers .The piece just grazed

was taken down to 1585 kgDM/ha where the cattle have grazed it out without being short of

grass.The grass they are now in is 2900 kgDM/ha - just about where it should be to be grazed

without being too strong. Having weighed the cattle in early June, we can see a variety of growths

ranging from 1 kg/day up to a staggering 2.5 kg/day, with an average over 300 animals (aged

between 7 and 25 months) of 1.6k g/day. The plan is to maintain these growths with excellent

grassland management throughout the season and well into the autumn.

 

HCC mid project report

HCC full project report

HCC grass availability for beef cattle A4 flyer cropped

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