After having let our cows out to graze exactly a month ago, we have had to bring some of them back indoors today. In an attempt to address the impending drought, Mother Nature has decided to send rain by the bucket full and our heavy clay soils are struggling to drain themselves between the storms. Although the potential to damage pasture and compromise productivity later in the season has largely driven the decision to house cows again, the lack of regrowth on fields that have been grazed over the past few weeks means that we are struggling to satisfy appetites from grazing alone.
Despite my strong beliefs in the benefits of giving our cows as much access to grazing as possible, we will not punish them or the land simply to ensure that they are outside for fixed number of days each year. This is why I am not asking Free Range Dairy producers to graze cows for a given number of days during the year. Those of us that understand the value of grazing for our cows and the profitability of our farms need no further encouragement to ensure that we get cows into fields as much as possible. However, Free Range Dairy will not embrace those who simply seek to turn out some of the cows, some of the time, in order to ‘jump through hoops’ in pursuit of a milk price premium.
I am sure that we will see grass growth recover in the next week or so and we will once again be able to establish our simple and cost effective routine of outdoor living. In the meantime, please let us know how the grazing season has started for you and tell us how you plan to get the most form grass this summer.