Dairy cows are every bit as discerning about their food as a MasterChef judge. They don’t like grass that’s too long, a species that’s unfamiliar and, less surprisingly, anything that’s got mud, manure or urine on it.
They don’t like longer grass because it gets fibrous. Our girls are thoroughly spoilt and only lush and juicy will do – so much so, they’d rather make a bed of it than eat stalky pasture.
This means that if you don’t have the grass eaten down far enough, it will get stalkier and stalkier as time goes by and the cows continue to refuse it.
According to the gurus, we should aim for a residual of four to six centimetres after the cows have left the paddock. If there’s only enough grass for half a grazing, you’re left with the dilemma of leaving it too long and seeing quality spiral or running out of feed. The textbook answer is to skip the paddock and “top” it with a mower but we don’t have enough people to do those types of jobs.
My alternatives are to save it for silage (topping’s automatically thrown in) or graze it and move them at lunchtime. And here they are:
Most of our farm’s internal fences are single-strand electric, which lends them perfectly to this type of manoeuvre. It took the cows five minutes or so to realise what I’d done but you can see how enthusiastic they were about their “second course” once the first pioneering diner ventured into cow nirvana.