Time for a pasture check-up

Time for a pasture check-up

27 July 2017

With the season just finished it’s a good time to get around your farm and take stock of all your pastures.

As well as identifying which paddocks are best for spring-sown crop, it will give you a head start on planning for spring cultivation and soil tests.

Checking the condition of all your paddocks also helps flag any possible issues before the start of spring. It ensures paddocks selected for spring sowing will provide the best financial return and can reveal what parts of the farm have the most potential for improved productivity now and in the future.

There are several ways to build an accurate picture of pasture condition across the whole farm. The easiest of these is to rank all pastures visually using the Pasture Condition Score Tool from DairyNZ. This scores each paddock from one (the worst) to five (the best), with photos and standard descriptions that make it easy to use.

A key thing to look for is large, strong ryegrass plants, and plenty of them. For a profitable, high-scoring pasture about 70 percent of the plant population in any paddock should be good healthy ryegrass.

Typical signs of low pasture condition score are high weed populations, lack of clover, pugging damage and insect damage.

For more detail about how different paddocks compare to each other, you can also rank them according to their dry matter (DM) production. Software like AgriNet, Pasture Coach and Minda Land & Feed will automatically produce DM rankings based on data collected from regular pasture cover readings during the season.

The same can be done using your grazing records, which show how frequently each paddock has been grazed during the season. If you graze at 3000 kilograms of dry matter per hectare (kg DM/ha) down to 1500 kg DM/ha, for example, one grazing is 1.5 tonnes (t) DM/ha. An extra three grazings over a year for a single paddock is 4.5t DM/ha.

Once each paddock has been evaluated, the DairyNZ Pasture Condition Score Tool (included in the Farm Source Pasture options booklet) outlines what steps are required to maintain condition, or restore it to full production in the short, medium or long term as required.

If you’re using the spring crop as the first step towards full pasture renewal, remember now is the ideal time to identify and address any underlying problems that may have affected the paddock’s performance in the first place. That way you’ll get the best return on your new pasture investment.

Using a crop as part of the programme provides an opportunity to control insects, eradicate difficult weeds and correct soil fertility issues.

For more advice on the best options for your farm or to arrange an on-farm visit ask your local Fonterra Farm Source team.

Article supplied by Agriseeds