Persistence pays off with good new pasture management

Persistence pays off with good new pasture management

25 March 2019

The management of new pastures, especially during the first 12 months, is vital when it comes to ensuring long-term performance and persistence.

There is a lot of information and advice available on the topic which can be both confusing and conflicting. However, the goal remains clear and consistent - to encourage the rapid establishment of a weed-free sward with good tiller numbers and root mass.

After selecting the right ryegrass cultivar and endophyte, such as Base, Excess or Platform perennial ryegrasses with AR37 endophyte, managing new pasture establishment is the most important step towards ensuring a productive and persistent pasture.

Following the sowing of any new pasture, it is important to undertake regular monitoring to ensure the correct establishment. Weed and pest issues detected early can often be controlled, avoiding costly replanting. Early herbicide applications are highly recommended as superior control can be achieved when weeds are small and susceptible. One aspect of new pasture management that is often overlooked is weed control, and this is especially true of annual weeds. Tiller development in ryegrass is controlled by light reaching the base of the plant. If your new grass is full of weeds, your ryegrass plants may not tiller as densely as they should.

Newly-sown pastures benefit from early and light applications of nitrogen (25 kilograms per hectare), from three to four weeks after emergence and post-grazing. It’s important to remain vigilant about nitrate levels before grazing, particularly in new pastures, during moist overcast days following dry spells. If nitrate poisoning is a concern, testing plant samples prior to grazing is recommended. Regular, subsequent applications of fertiliser based on herbage and soil test results, as well as the amount of feed harvested from the pasture, will improve the persistence and performance of new pasture.

Early grazing management is also important for enhancing pasture establishment and tillering. Newly-established pasture is ready to graze when it passes the ‘pull-test’. This involves grasping the seedling and giving it a firm pull to simulate grazing. If the leaves break, rather than the roots pulling out, the pasture is ready to graze.

Like raising young stock, new pastures require careful management in the first year of their establishment to ensure maximum ongoing performance. Key tips to note are:

  • Lightly graze establishing plants once your pasture reaches the right stage
  • Ideally, use the lightest stock class available to minimise pulling or pugging damage
  • Short, sharp grazings of newly-established pasture can help to eliminate weeds
  • Avoid using new pastures for conserved feeds in the first one to two years
  • Newly-sown pastures benefit from early applications of nitrogen

Pasture renewal, particularly with modern cultivars and endophytes, presents an opportunity for improved farm productivity. Tools including the DairyNZ Forage Value Index (FVI) demonstrate the value modern ryegrass genetics can contribute to New Zealand farming systems. Persistence of ryegrass has been maintained in the breeding process. However, the cultivar and endophyte options need to be used appropriately to ensure they cope with modern grazing demands and challenges presented by the seasons. With seed in the ground, allocating time this autumn to monitoring new pastures is time well-spent.

Attention to detail is key and doing the basics well will deliver results.

For more tips and advice on new pasture management, please talk with your local Farm Source TSR.

Article supplied by PGG Wrightson Seeds