The latest Green Gold column from Bess Jowsey.

LIFE has changed fairly dramatically for me since my column last month… although feedback from my clients suggested that life on farm is continuing relatively normally – apart from the kids being at home! The weather too has had a dramatic shift through April, with ground conditions now ideal for grazing, and in some cases farmers are hoping for a spot of rain to keep things fresh and growing.

A potential market price drop looming has a way of focusing the mind and can be a real catalyst for innovation and positive change as farmers look to streamline their enterprises. With the current climatic conditions along with future market uncertainly… has there been a better time to challenge yourself and your stock to produce more from grazed grass?

With growing conditions optimal, new leaf emergence will be occurring every seven to eight days, therefore grazing two-and-a-half to three leaves requires rotation around your farm every 20 to 25-day rotation to maximise grass quality.

In most cases grass growth will now be exceeding stock demand therefore our decisions for grass management must centre around maintaining pasture quality by managing surpluses effectively.

Those who actively measure grass will be best placed to make good decisions. Regular farm walks and feed wedge information allows you to see a surplus arriving and react quickly to ensure it doesn’t negatively impact on stock productivity.

Indications of surplus grass are average farm cover and pre-grazing covers rising above optimal. This results in residuals rising and areas of wastage increasing while it takes longer to graze out a paddock.

* Ensure all stock are consuming as much grass as possible – limit other feed inputs

* Skip grazing paddocks which have gone beyond three leaves and let these grow on for about ten to 14 days before cutting for silage. At this time of year post three-leaf ryegrass plants drop quality quickly. Other than leaf die-off the plant becomes top heavy. Canopy closure blocks light to the sward base resulting in stem growth. Stem is much poorer quality than leaf, and stock are more reluctant to graze it. Not only does this make grazing more challenging, it can also mean poorer quality winter forage if you aren’t actively monitoring grass growth.

Cutting silage by calendar date is not a reliable method of making high-quality silage if that’s what you require. It’s much better to cut when the grass is at the right stage.

Grass mown before or soon after canopy closure will not only be higher quality but will regrow faster, so a perceived ‘lack of bulk’ can be made up by extra cuts. If harvesting surplus off a grazing area ensure the cutting height is set close to 1500 kgDM/ha as stock will not graze below this cutting point for the rest of the season.

Ryegrass seed-heads occurring later this month and into June can be effectively managed with a combination of accurate grazing and surplus management.

* For support in making the most of grass this summer contact Bess Jowsey on 07717732324. All LIC Pasture to Profit consultants are classed as essential workers and are able to visit your farm as long as social distancing is maintained. Alternatively you can send pictures or videos and use the phone or the Zoom conferencing tool to have discussions and receive recommendations. Contact Bess on the number above or via