The term “deferred grazing” refers to grass which has been left to grow and fed later in the year. Removing stock in the early autumn allows covers to build forming a “wedge” which can be grazed during winter and potentially reduce wintering costs. This wedge can then be allocated and rotationally grazed over winter at a high stocking rate, allowing swards first grazed to recover and grow ready for grazing in the spring. It is often not as straight forward as it sounds, with field choice, management and weather all playing a part. Aim to turn stock into covers of 3500kg per ha of dry matter and graze down to 1500kg per ha (this can be lower in early winter).

Free draining fields are the ideal choice as this will reduce soil damage. Good grass quality and dense swards are vital to ensure wastage is low and dead leaf matter kept to a minimum. Grazing fields hard over summer before shutting up will reduce this. To get the most out of deferred grazing accurate allocation is key. A good rule of thumb is to allow 2% of an adult animal’s body weight in dry matter (e.g. a 70 kilo ewe should have 1.4kg of dry matter per day budgeted for). It is best practise to budget 10% for wastage, with the amount of wastage depending on the weather and how much grass is allocated at one go. Creating paddocks with electric fencing allows the deferred grass to be allocated per day. Moving stock every 24 hours requires more work but gives better utilisation, whereas 4-day breaks cause more wastage especially in wet weather.


To work out the size of a paddock the amount of dry matter needs to be measured (we have sward sticks available to do this). For example, a flock of 250 ewes weighing 70kg would have a daily demand of 385kg of dry matter. A 2.5ac paddock with a starting cover of 3000kg per hectare of dry matter grazed to 1500 would feed the flock for just under 4 days. Group size, days in paddocks and paddock sizes can all be altered depending on the season, stock body condition and grass available.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email