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A few thoughts on grazing

Set stocking when you have average growth conditions in spring can work well for some farmers.

This can work well in terms of lambing, reduced contamination of lambing paddocks and subsequent improved pasture quality for early summer lambs.

Maintaining quality pasture in the summer is so important in a sheep system although in this recent difficult spring set stocking at low covers has resulted in underfeeding in some cases.

Several factors can complicate summer management, which can then lead to poor quality autumn pasture.

If relaxed or semi set stocking is employed the result can be a deterioration in summer pasture quality, as only the top is grazed off and dead material builds up in the base of the pasture. Nest thing you know clover levels start dropping.

So, how can quality be maintained?

By better matching feed supply and demand e.g., conserving surpluses (balage, hay, silage), or introducing more stock – taking in grazing or buying store stock, and/or topping.

Quality can also be maintained by rotationally grazing young stock and more intense rotational grazing of other classes of stock that are lower priority at this time of the year such as ewes or cows.

Other classes of stock, such as cattle, can also be used to maintain control.

Young cattle can have a positive effect on quality even if grazed with lambs and older classes of cattle can still achieve good growth rates while being grazed behind lambs in a rotation. An added benefit is less cross-contamination of parasite larvae and some vacuuming affect while enhancing clover growth.

While it pays to remember that lambs can be very selective and hard on clover if set-stocked.

Maintaining more clover improves the pasture quality and captures more free nitrogen.

Better lamb growth rates can lead to an earlier lamb kill and possibly more autumn-saved pasture – lessening the reliance on winter crops and conserved feed.

Better autumn pasture quality can then pay dividends when used for ewes at tupping and to better grow out ewe lambs prior to winter.

Remember, with good management very high levels of production can be being achieved at a low cost.

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