There are number of fundamental differences between annual and Italian ryegrasses that should be addressed. Below are a few generalisations.
As annual ryegrasses approach flowering, increase stocking rates to delay flowering, and maintain stocking rates through the flowering period. This will help to improve pasture quality and get the best out of the grass. Leaving the ryegrass to go to head will potentially increase drymatter slightly over a more tightly managed pasture, but will result in a significant drop in pasture quality. This drop in quality will negatively affect live weight gains and milk yields. In a tight spring, it is also important to consider where the stock will go once the annual ryegrass starts to senesce and if feed needs to be brought in.
Italian ryegrasses also need to be managed through this period. While they will still flower, close grazing management can help to delay this slightly, prolonging the quality of the pasture. Similar to annual ryegrasses, once the pasture starts to elongate and set itself up for flowering, maintain or increase grazing pressure to keep the stems short. This will help to minimise the drop in pasture quality. Unlike annual ryegrass, Italian ryegrasses won’t immediately senesce after flowering. Good quality Italian ryegrasses, with low aftermath heading, will return to vegetative growth and quality will return. Ryegrass varieties with a significant amount of aftermath heading will continue to flower through the spring, always having lower quality feed compared to low aftermath heading varieties which continue to produce more leaf.