Keeping an eye on the ball with winter forage crops

As farmers start transitioning stock off winter forage crops, they are being reminded to keep their eye on the ball with their environmental and stock management.
Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Matt Ward, Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s General Manager North Island, says while many farmers are finishing off their winter forage crops, it is important to continue to apply best-practice management techniques, particularly in bad weather.

Back-fencing, portable water troughs, stand-off and loafing areas and the protection of Critical Source Areas (CSA) still need to be applied to protect both the environment and animal welfare.

He says simple management practices can make a significant difference to nutrient and soil losses while ensuring animals have a suitable loafing area where they can lie down and exhibit natural behaviour. The latter is particularly important for stock in the final stages of pregnancy.

Matt says it is also a good time to consider establishing a catch-crop to capture the nutrients left in the soil in the wake of grazing forage crops. Crops such as green-feed oats can be sown as soon as ground conditions allow and will use nutrients, which could potentially be lost to the environment, to grow drymatter, benefitting both the environment and the bottom line.

Farmers should also take the opportunity to reflect on how paddocks used for growing winter forage crops performed and use that information when selecting the appropriate paddocks for next year’s crops.

Factors that should be considered include slope, class of stock being grazed, proximity to waterways or Critical Source Areas, risk of pugging and proximity to stand-off areas.

Matt says B+LNZ, along with DairyNZ and Deer Industry NZ have a raft of resources available to help farmers with the decision-making process and ensure the management of winter forage crops protects the environment, animal welfare and their business.

He says B+LNZ has been pleased with the progress made this season with the adoption of good management practices around winter grazing. This has been noticed by a number of environmental commentators.

“We need to continue to build on this as this is an important issue for New Zealanders, our environment and farmers’ social license to operate.”

For more information go to https://beeflambnz.com/knowledge-hub/search?term=Winter+grazing