how to ensure a tasty recipe for spring pasture
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.