Closing paddocks: Paddocks grazed from now on will most likely not be grazed again until spring.
These paddocks will have the highest covers of grass next spring and probably won’t be grazed until late February or early March, even on dry farms.
Only paddocks with the least amount of clover should be closed first.
One of the reasons why clover dies on farms is because it gets shaded out over the winter.
Because the first closed paddocks won’t be grazed again for five months, there will be a high cover on them and so a greater risk of clover getting shaded out.
By leaving paddocks with high clover contents until last to close at least you are giving the clover every chance to get plenty of light over the winter months.
The paddocks grazed in the last few weeks of October are likely to be the paddocks grazed first in spring, so target dry paddocks with plenty of access during this time.
Despite all of the above, it’s important not to overcomplicate the strategy by including too many variables.
Weather: Ground conditions have deteriorated in the last week, particularly on heavy farms. Where there is a risk of poaching, cows should be given 12-hour breaks and grazing lighter covers. Grazing lighter covers now will also increase the amount of area closed for the winter.
Better weather is forecast for the weekend and into next week, which will help get heavy covers grazed off and closed. Feeding silage and other bulky feeds, while it may be necessary to slow down the rotation and build cover, is not good for cleanouts. Cows will often gather at gaps waiting to be let in to eat silage rather than finish grazing. Allocating grass on a 12- or 24-hour basis is essential when feeding silage.
Some farmers decide in the autumn to fully house a section of herd and give them silage ad lib rather than feeding a small bit to all the cows. They rotate the cows that get to stay indoors so the effect of silage on the diet is minimised. The net result is that the same amount of silage is fed and grass saved, but the cows that are grazing are only eating grass and/or meal. Farmers who are on target for grass should be feeding the minimum amount of feed necessary.
Winter ready: As the last week has testified, winter isn’t too far away. Now is a good time to make sure sheds are ready for cows and cattle. Check that cubicles are hanging and not loose and that all mats are in place and secure. Check that automatic scrapers are working as they can sometimes give up when not in use. The importance of fresh, clean water, even for dry cows, is probably not fully appreciated by most farmers. Large water troughs of stagnant, dirty water are not good for cows, whether in a shed or out the field. Those operating indoor systems understand this better than most and water troughs are usually emptied and cleaned on a daily basis in confinement systems. Tip-over water troughs are being installed in most new builds and, while more expensive, they make cleaning easier. Leaky gutters and downpipes must be fixed and make sure all slurry tanks are emptied before cows are housed.