Managing Autumn & WInter Grass - Richard Butter

Published 2 December 09

Controlling grass growth over winter is important if farmers are to avoid having poor quality at turnout due to excess growth or a cover that is too high.  Excess growth going through the winter may mean poor quality at turnout and too high a cover with the result that the first grazing fails to achieve a good residual and utilisation.

Using sheep strategically to control autumn and winter grass growth is not uncommon, but it can bring its own challenges if the animals stay too long on the grass or escape, and often requires management of the sheep owner.

One alternative, adopted by producer Richard Butter of Trebartha Farm near Launceston, is to use young stock to manage the grass over the winter period. 

Mr Butter farms 110 black and whites producing 6800 litres on his 175 acre farm.   The area has 75" of rainfall annually and a medium loam soil. 43 acres of this land are sloping and steep and generally used for young stock and some early spring grazing.

The farm will carry 100-130 young stock (bullocks and heifers) through the year. The rest of the farm is relatively flat and is used for the cow grazing and silage, this is the land the young stock graze through the autumn and winter. All black and white males are kept until 10-18 months when sold as stores.

Richard had to keep some stock out over winter as housing was limiting, from this point he has fine tuned his approach and increased the number of stock out.

By grazing young stock in this way, Richard is able to manage his swards to produce the right covers and quality for spring turnout, drastically reducing housing costs (labour, bedding, muck and building capital costs) as well as feed costs.  In addition to this, as his young stock are out, they avoid the October November pneumonia risk. Finally the labour involved is much reduced compared to housing.