Sus­tain­able prac­tice for win­ter stock

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery - By BALA TIKKISETTY

It is wise to keep an eye on stock win­ter­ing prac­tices to be used in the wet win­ter months ahead.

In re­cent years, land use change, in­clud­ing in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion, has seen changes in the type of stock, dry mat­ter pro­duc­tion, stock­ing rates and nutrient in­put.

All these can have an im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment.

For ex­am­ple, a com­mon prac­tice dur­ing win­ter is to graze cat­tle in­ten­sively on large quan­ti­ties of for­age crops in rel­a­tively small area which, if not man­aged well, can re­sult in soil dam­age and other po­ten­tial en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts such as pol­lut­ing sur­face and ground wa­ter.

Live­stock den­sity is not the only fac­tor af­fect­ing wa­ter qual­ity as se­lec­tion of feed­ing sites and man­age­ment of win­ter­ing sys­tems are also im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tions.

Also, wet pas­ture, heavy graz­ing and the re­sult­ing com­paction can re­duce pas­ture growth and im­pact neg­a­tively on farm pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Feed pads and stand-off pads are op­tions for pro­tect­ing soil phys­i­cal struc­ture over wet pe­ri­ods.

The feed pad is a ded­i­cated con­crete plat­form where sup­ple­men­tary feeds are brought to the stock.

Higher feed ef­fi­ciency is achieved as the wastage is re­duced to about five per cent as against about 20 per cent or more when silage is fed in pad­docks.

A stand-off pad is a ded­i­cated loaf­ing area for stock.

These pads are con­structed us­ing a softer free-drain­ing sur­face and utilise ma­te­ri­als like wood chips.

As stock can be with­held from pas­ture for longer pe­ri­ods of time, the area re­quired per cow has to be big­ger, say about eight square me­tres.

Cap­ture of ef­flu­ent is an im­por­tant as­pect of stand­off pads.

The law re­quires that the base of any feed­pad or stand­off pad is prop­erly sealed un­der­neath, such as with com­pacted clay, a syn­thetic liner or con­crete.

Herd home tech­nol­ogy has also re­cently gained in pop­u­lar­ity.

It is a com­bi­na­tion of a feed­ing plat­form, stand-off fa­cil­ity and an­i­mal shel­ter.

Shel­tered feed­ing for stock takes place over slat­ted con­crete floors. As the cows stand on the reen­forced slat­ted floors, their ef­flu­ent drops through the slats and into a con­crete lined bunker be­low.

While com­mon in years gone by, sac­ri­fice pad­docks are now gen­er­ally dis­cour­aged be­cause of their dis­ad­van­tages.

These in­clude the risk of soil struc­ture dam­age and pos­si­ble an­i­mal health prob­lems, such as lame­ness and mas­ti­tis.

If soil potas­sium lev­els be­come too great (potas­sium is ex­creted in urine) it may pre­dis­pose the calv­ing cow to meta­bolic prob­lems.

When build­ing any win­ter­ing pad al­low for solid and liq­uid waste dis­posal. De­sign the pad in such a way that the con­tam­i­nants run into the farm’s ef­flu­ent dis­posal sys­tem for the dairy shed. Lo­cate the feed pad or stand-off pad well away from any wa­ter­way. It is un­law­ful to al­low ef­flu­ent runoff to en­ter streams or seep into ground­wa­ter.

Do not feed out sup­ple­men­tary feeds in ar­eas where run-off wa­ter may reach any wa­ter body. If pos­si­ble avoid feed­ing out in these pad­docks al­to­gether.

– Bala Tikkisetty is a sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture co­or­di­na­tor at Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil. Con­tact him on 0800 800 401 or bala. tikkisetty@ wai ka­tore­gion.govt.nz

Help­ful ad­vice: Bala Tikkisetty is a sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture co-or­di­na­tor at Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil.

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