Pre­vent­ing soil dam­age dur­ing win­ter

Hauraki Herald - - FARMING - BALA TIKKISETTY

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.

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