AHDB Beef & Lamb recently hosted a series of workshops with Dr Trevor Cook, a veterinarian and sheep and beef production consultant from New Zealand. An estimated 150 people attended the events that were held at various locations throughout England. These timely meetings focused on understanding the value of monitoring and measuring grass and forage, setting key performance indicators (KPIs) for farms and using tools to help improve decision making.
Grass has played a fundamental role in the development and progression of the New Zealand dairy, beef and lamb industries. Like the UK, practicing good grassland management is key to the productivity and profitability of pasture-based production systems in New Zealand. Trevor explained the importance of effective grazing management during the summer and autumn period. The aim is to build up sufficient quantities of grass to extend the grazing period, while also ensuring that sufficient grass covers remain for early spring growth in the subsequent year.
Emphasis was placed on ensuring there is sufficient quality within the grass that is grown. The metabolisable energy (ME) content of a grass ley is the single biggest driver in daily liveweight gain in youngstock. Producers should aim for a 12 megajoules (MJ) ME sward, which can be achieved by ensuring the sward is grazed out sufficiently and dead or dying leaves (after the three-leaf stage) is minimal.
The use of modern technologies that assess and forecast the availability of grass and forage is widespread across New Zealand. Interestingly, Trevor noted the increased use of compressed sward sticks on New Zealand dairy farms. This simple tool allows graziers to measure swards and from this a grazing plan can be implemented.