Cattle will now be moving in to the second half of the grazing season and the focus on grassland management should be slightly different.

During May and June, grass hits peak growth and swards head out, making it hard to manage.

By midsummer, grass quality becomes easier to manage and utilisation should improve.

However, growth rates will be lower, so for many farmers, the challenge will be to keep enough grass in front of cattle and start building covers for autumn.

Outlined are five steps to manage the grazing platform from mid-summer onwards.

1. Topping headed out grass

Where grass has headed out, cattle will struggle to clean out swards and utilisation will drop.

If headed out grass is left in the sward, it will die back and grass yields will suffer, as will cattle performance.

Topping will encourage fresh regrowth across the whole sward. As new grass grows, this will be digestible leaf, not stem and utilisation, as well as cattle performance, will increase.

2. Fertiliser

Grass is now past the heading out phase. So fertiliser applied after the current rotation, or after topping rejected grass, will build covers of highly digestible leaf.

If there are plans to cut back on fertiliser over the summer, timing a nitrogen application is crucial to get the best return for money.

Provided conditions are suitable, spreading 20 to 30 units/acre of nitrogen in mid to late July will give a greater boost to grass growth compared to an application in mid- to late August.

A CAN-based product with sulphur will benefit grass growth as cattle should be recycling P and K on grazing swards.

3. Leaving higher residuals

Grass utilisation is still important, so keep the focus on cleaning out swards in the current rotation through mid-July.

But as grazing moves in to August, think about leaving a slightly higher residual cover around 5cm to 6cm, or just above the point of the toe cap on your boot.

Leaving a slightly higher residual will speed up regrowth during late summer. As grass is past the heading out stage, there is no real drop in sward quality at this stage of the season.

4. Rotation length

Try to keep the rotation at 21 days in July and build to 24 days for August. As silage ground comes back in to the rotation, this should be easier to do.

5. Priority cattle

Give thought to which cattle are a higher priority during the second half of the season and which animals are not.

Where cattle will be finished off grass, these animals should be kept on high quality swards from here on in.

The same goes with weanlings that will be sold in autumn. Setting up a creep gate to let calves graze ahead of cows can improve weight gain.

Young cattle that will be stored over winter and go back to grass next year could have some of their grazing area given over to higher priority cattle, if needed.

Weaning autumn and winter calving cows will ease demand for grass and allow weanlings to get more of the best grass available, as well as building covers ahead of stock.

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