how to en­sure a tasty recipe for spring pas­ture

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Farm Diary -

Con­trol­ling what you are feed­ing your cat­tle now is go­ing to have a big im­pact on their con­di­tion and abil­ity to raise their calves in spring. You need to be con­trol­ling graz­ing so there is plenty of pas­ture for lac­tat­ing livestock from Septem­ber on­wards, while still en­sur­ing they get the nu­tri­tion they need dur­ing preg­nancy. This may mean buy­ing in sup­ple­ments but eco­nom­i­cally it can be bet­ter to have fewer stock over win­ter if feed avail­abil­ity is low.

The big­gest prob­lem in win­ter is pug­ging of pas­ture. This da­m­ages the soil by com­pact­ing it, mean­ing it isn’t oxy­genated prop­erly, which then re­duces ben­e­fi­cial bi­o­log­i­cal ac­tiv­ity that plants need, like my­c­or­rhizal fun­gus.

Pug­ging can se­verely re­duce pas­ture yield – be­tween 20-80% for four to eight months – de­pend­ing on soil type, sever­ity of the dam­age, and as­sum­ing re­me­dial ac­tion is taken af­ter the pug­ging event.

Soil poros­ity: if soil is pugged, wa­ter will pond on the sur­face for longer. Soil will re­main softer and wet­ter and sub­se­quent graz­ings by livestock will re­sult in fur­ther dam­age. Pas­ture util­i­sa­tion: crush­ing, bruis­ing, and burial in the mud of pas­ture will make it un­palat­able to stock and dif­fi­cult to eat, re­duc­ing util­i­sa­tion by up to 50%. This re­duc­tion in pas­ture util­i­sa­tion not only re­duces cow in­take at the time of graz­ing, but also af­fects the qual­ity of the feed of­fered to the cows in sub­se­quent graz­ings, and re­duced yield through un­grazed clumps.

Tip: livestock need pas­ture for good lac­ta­tion – they don’t produce good milk eat­ing sup­ple­ments. Longer pas­ture pro­tects soil from pug­ging – ide­ally don’t graze pas­ture be­low 3.5- 4cm in height.

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