• Pasture intake per cow depends on having high quality pasture and enough pasture available per hectare. This is a very challenging balance in most spring conditions but is possible to achieve.
• Rotation needs to be set to offer the highest amount of milker quality pasture. Stop counting leaves and set the rotation based on quality – aim to graze pastures before 25 per cent of the paddock has reached canopy closure.
• Allocate the right area of pasture each day to maintain pasture pressure. If the rotation is right and you have removed as much supplement as you are prepared to from the diet then consider banking paddocks to maintain grazing pressure.
• Consider the use of nitrogen to boost pasture production and potentially minimise the use of supplements. Pasture responses of 10 to 20kg DM/ha for every kg/nitrogen/ha are common in spring and represent very good value for money if you need and/or can utilise the additional feed grown.
• Purchase concentrates at an affordable cost and an appropriate quality. Diet balance is a major consideration when purchasing concentrates. When cows are eating two-thirds or more of their diet as high quality pasture, high protein concentrates are not normally required. Basic additives such as macro minerals and buffer are normally required.
When thinking about silage, remember a true surplus conserved is relatively cheap. Some silage tips:
• Cut pastures early, at the two- to three-leaf stage or before canopy closure.
• Cut pasture for silage as close to grazing height as possible (4cm to 6cm).
• Wilt the silage as fast as possible (use a tedder if needed). Aim for 45 per cent DM for bales and 33 per cent DM for stacks or pits.
• Seal quickly and well to exclude air.
• Repair holes immediately using specific silage tape.
Secure feed now for the summer feed gap
• Estimate feed required to feed your cows well over the anticipated feed gap.
• Focus on quality and quantity of feed as well as cost.
• Investigate all options for filling the feed gap and act early to secure the feed at the best possible price. Common options are grain, silage, purchased hay and spring-planted summer crops.