I shouldn’t admit this but I use the lawn as a bit of a guide to pasture growth rates. Our lawn is far from manicured and includes just about every grass species known to man. Of course, it’s not grazed either, so it’s really easy to see how it is performing. And, this week, we raised the mower’s cutter deck in an attempt to preserve its greenness.
That’s not to say I don’t watch the paddocks like a hawk. Out on the farm, we’ve been battling to prevent the grass from bolting to head, raising seed heads atop stalky stems that fill the cows with fibre rather than goodness. The seed heads also signal senescence – a type of hibernation for grass – dramatically reducing growth rates.
It means that rather than being able to graze a paddock, say, every 21 days, we must rest it for up to 60 days when summer really kicks in. To manage this, we strip graze the paddocks so the cows get a much smaller yet still fresh portion each day. With less grass on offer, we must make up the daily ration with supplementary feed. I have some gorgeous vetch hay waiting in the shed and there’s all that silage we baled just a few weeks ago.
My first step though is to lift the amount of grain we’re feeding to balance out the increasing fibre in the grass. Just a 1kg boost – easy enough to turn up the dial but, oh, what a performance it turned out to be!
The feed system is governed by a timer rather than a checkweigher, so we have to guess how much extra time to dial up, scoop samples into buckets, weigh and review if necessary but the scale’s batteries were flat. Determined to get it right though, I dumped a 1 litre juice bottle on top of a bucket of the current ration and, with Clarkie’s help, set up a rudimentary scale with a scrap metal rod suspended from a roof truss with hay band. It wasn’t glamorous but it worked a treat!
All I want for Christmas now is a yard hydrant wash system, an underpass and a pasture meter like Graeme’s.