NZ Lifestyle Block - - Feature -

PAS­TURE MAN­AGE­MENT is a sub­ject that al­ways seems to be more art than science, and it’s even more dif­fi­cult on a block as there are never enough pad­docks to get a good graz­ing ro­ta­tion go­ing. It’s dif­fi­cult to give pas­ture plants enough time to re­cover and build up bulk be­fore they have to be grazed again.

Pas­ture is not like pur­chased feed in a bag. Grass and clover changes ev­ery day of the year, and even dur­ing the day, de­pend­ing on the sun­shine-making nu­tri­ents cre­ated by pho­to­syn­the­sis.

The ba­sic prin­ci­ple is sim­ple: pas­ture feeds stock, and stock con­trol pas­ture to keep it in its nu­tri­tious green leafy stage, which is high in pro­tein and en­ergy, low in fi­bre and highly di­gestible. Pas­ture plants are hard-wired to grow fast to the seed head stage to re­pro­duce, and then die back un­til the next sea­son. Pas­ture man­age­ment’s aim is to stop or de­lay the plant from go­ing to seed.

The ideal way to achieve this is to graze pad­docks in ro­ta­tion (ro­ta­tional graz­ing). But the more usual prac­tice is to ‘set stock’ where an­i­mals con­tin­u­ally graze the same area so plants never get time to build up leaf area, and hence root re­serves. This hap­pens es­pe­cially when pad­docks are over­stocked due to all the ex­tra mouths to feed be­fore young spring­born stock are weaned and sold off.

If you didn’t have a ‘spring flush’ on your farm, there are two sim­ple rea­sons: too many stock and/or low soil fer­til­ity, and both need to be fixed. The ideal stock­ing rate is what you can carry through win­ter with­out them get­ting skinny. You don’t want them com­ing into spring in low body con­di­tion with no milk for their off­spring. Th­ese an­i­mals will never get back into good body con­di­tion and are more prone to health prob­lems like in­ter­nal par­a­sites.

If the grass is not grow­ing, it’s tempt­ing to ap­ply a top dress­ing of ni­tro­gen fer­tiliser (eg 25kg/ha of urea) to give what grass you have a boost. But this will be a

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