The Shupes have tried several different grasses, so when they decided to renovate the pastures in 2012, they looked at what had been working for them. Perennial ryegrass is not normally considered a winter-hardy pasture grass, but in the climate they have, a 15-year-old pasture of perennial ryegrass had been a steady producer of high quality, palatable grass, so they decided to make it the base grass for their pasture system.
The ryegrass variety named ‘Power’ by the Cisco Company was the product of choice when they decided to plant, along with some clover and forage chicory that the cows really devour. The timing of renovating the pastures to perennial ryegrass was ideal for the year. The early spring allowed the grass to be planted in March and get a great start before the dry, summer weather.
Knowing the amount of grass available to the dairy herd is critical for keeping cows at expected production levels. Christopher Shupe makes a weekly pass through all the pastures to record dry matter readings using his digitized rising plate meter. It provides data for managing stocking rates based partly on science and partly on experience. It’s one of the tools they couldn’t do without. The cows need high quality forage and with two 300-cow groups, knowing where to move them is always a high priority. The Shupes have a goal of putting cows on a new paddock when available forage is about 3,000 pounds of dry matter per acre. Cattle are removed from paddocks when available forage is at 1,500 pounds of dry matter per acre and the residual is generally about 3 inches tall.
The time spent observing and learning from others that are grazing is an easy and inexpensive way to have a good time. Making new friends, getting reacquainted with old friends, sharing experiences with others that have a similar passion, or just getting out on a great day are more than just educational, they really are priceless.