Preventing soil damage during winter
OPINION: The weather has been a mixed bag of wet and dry already this year. The winter season is now around the corner and who knows what that will bring.
Soil health damage during winter has been recognised as a major issue for the farming community. It coincides with high stock densities and high soil moisture conditions.
It’s general practice during winter to graze stock intensively on winter forage crops supplying large quantities of feed in a relatively small area.
Now is the right time for farmers to consider the impact of stock wintering practices on soil health and water quality.
Many studies have shown that water quality guidelines and standards have been exceeded as a result of intensive agricultural activities.
Livestock density is not the only factor affecting water quality – site selection and management of wintering systems are also important considerations.
Here are some stock wintering options that achieve good environmental results, are animal-friendly and make econ- omic sense.
Feed and stand-off pads protect soil structure over wet periods. The feed pad is a dedicated concrete platform where supplementary feeds are brought to the stock.
Stand-off pads are a dedicated loafing area for stock. These pads are constructed using a softer, free-draining surface utilising materials like wood chips.
Animal shelters are gaining popularity. Herd homes are a combination of a feeding platform, stand-off facility and animal shelter. Sheltered feeding for stock takes place over slatted concrete floors.
Composting barns are another type of stock wintering option, with the composting occurring insitu.
As a last resort, sacrifice paddocks can be used when other options are not available to stand animals off when it is very wet, or as an area to feed animals hay and silage.
By planning now and implementing proper stock wintering management practices, you can play an important part in improving water quality and soil health.
Bala Tikkisetty is a sustainable agriculture advisor at Waikato Regional Council.