Managing Ryegrass pastures for optimum production

By Vincent Posada – Consulting Nutritionist

This winter when Ryegrass takes off after rain and fertilizer application, there is a tendency for more forage to be available that can actually be consumed.  Our reaction is to slow down paddock rotation and increase grazing time at each strip or paddock.  This is turn increases the resting period of the other paddocks. Eventually, milk production goes down, even though there is plenty of pasture but now of poorer digestibility which decreases dry matter intake.  

The opposite happens when Ryegrass growth slows down due to less rain and/or fertilizer application.  There is a tendency then to increase daily grazing area to maintain forage on offer per cow constant. Unfortunately each paddock resting time decreases and eventually this affects pasture productivity, milk output and fat content in milk. 

There is a few rules to follow for optimum milk production when grazing Ryegrass:  1) do not follow a typical rotation where the next paddock to graze is the one besides the one being grazed today 2) visit all paddocks once a week to determine leaf regrowth stage and height, and record information, 3) assign order of paddocks to graze on leaf stage being at 2.5 and 3 leaf stage during winter and 2 to 2.5 during spring or when canopy closure; these paddocks may not be besides each other, 4)  graze each paddock/strip for maximum two days to prevent depletion of sugars reserves in plant used for next growth 5) use back fencing to prevent re-grazing of young plants 6) leave around 6 cm post grazing residue to allow for optimum regrowth, and 7) harvest excess grass by taking out paddocks when fast growth or reduce stocking rates when growth slows down. 

Finally, I suggest discussing with Goldmix Stockfeeds and/or your local Norco Rural Store which is the most adequate dairy feed that will better enhance milk production of your well managed ryegrass pastures.