Cows are discerning diners

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:

Moving the cows


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.

Gasp: the cows love fescue (and I do too)

Cows grazing Advance Tall Fescue

The cows really seem to prefer the Advance tall fescue over ryegrass

I’m beginning a clandestine (well maybe I’m coming out of the closet with this blog) love affair with fescue and cocksfoot. Our Gippsland dairy farm has always relied on a combination of ryegrass and clover, although prairie grass loves to volunteer. Because the weather patterns have changed so much, I’ve started to experiment with other pasture types.

We sowed the aptly-named swamp paddock with Advance tall fescue last year. It doesn’t mind waterlogging and produces massive volumes of feed in summer – just when the swamp paddock can withstand grazing without getting pugged. I’d had the paddock sown to an annual ryegrass which reshot and seemed to overwhelm it, so had the whole lot sprayed out with glyphosate. To my delight, the ryegrass was knocked out and the fescue has come back in force.

The cows seem to love Advance. I had them in the adjacent paddock of gorgeous perennial ryegrass but when I lifted the fence to let them into the rear of the still partially inundated swamp paddock, they rushed in and stayed there to eat the fescue.