Grazed grass is the cheapest and most natural ruminant feed. Up to half that grown is commonly wasted. If managed correctly however, grazed grass can provide 85% and 95% of natural energy requirements of beef and sheep systems respectively. Input costs and reliance on bought-in feed can be dramatically reduced. Many producers finish lambs and cattle purely off pasture and conserved forages often earning a premium. They can also reduce other costly inputs such as anthelmintics and provide the market with naturally and ethically produced food. There are costs associated with better grass utilisation with higher fencing, water provision and management etc. but benefits far outweigh the costs
Differing approaches to grazing as highlighted in the table, can almost double grass yield which in turn increases stocking potential. A move to one grazing system entirely may be impractical and a combination can be applied still with yield improvements.
Understanding grass growth and the host of factors that affect it is key. Growing as much as you can is pointless if not utilised. Optimum grass sward height for cattle and sheep differ. Measurement by eye, against your boot or by sward stick etc. monitors growth from week to week. Plate meters are an excellent management tool and so accurate they are second only to cutting, drying and weighing pasture samples so quickly establish quantity of dry matter available in a grazing paddock taking measurements as you walk.
Gaining that illusive ‘extra bite’ for lactating ewes or growing youngstock can be achieved by grazing the same areas more efficiently using a Rotational or Paddock type systems. It may be daunting to set up but electric fencing easily incorporates with existing fence lines creating separate blocks quickly so you can give it a go. The use of Speedrite Unigizer™ power units gives the option to use mains, battery or solar power with the latter only requiring daylight to recharge batteries. Modern systems also provide more power output from less input with Cyclic Wave® technology keeping stock fenced in.
Assuming stocking rates increase, over reliance on anthelmintics for worm and fluke control can be an issue. Effective grazing management can assist in this too if planned. Simply rotating grazing pastures with cattle one year and sheep the next reduces the parasite burden. Mixed grazing reduces species density and the worm build up but compromises to optimum sward height must be made. Forage areas partially grazed or even considered in a grass ley in your arable rotation helps. Permanent pasture in an arable rotation for reduced parasite build up and less anthelmintic use should not be ruled out too.