Wet weather brings pasture quality challenge | Beef + Lamb New Zealand

Wet weather brings pasture quality challenge

Significant rainfall in many areas is going to make maintaining pasture quality a challenge for farmers trying to grow lambs and put condition back on ewes.
Thursday, 29 November 2018

Speaking at a recent, very wet field day in Central Canterbury, Farm Systems scientist Tom Fraser says 30 to 40 days out from weaning, farmers need to be putting a management plan in place to ensure lambs are being weaned onto high quality feed.

“It’s no use waiting until the day of weaning and then looking for high quality pasture.”

He says going into summer, grass has an ME of around 10, while legumes have an ME of 11.5. This is the difference between lambs growing at 100-120gms/day and 220-260gms/day post-weaning.

“You need legumes to get lambs growing over December and January.”

Some of the strategies he recommends to try and maintain pasture quality include rotational grazing ewes and lambs and using a maintenance mob to hard-graze pastures before weaning to allow the legume to express itself. He also suggests destocking and spelling hill country and concentrating grazing pressure on easier country to help control pasture there.

“This is a good opportunity to look after your hill blocks which have been hammered over the past few years.

“Spell them and allow the annual clovers to reseed – they will become a mess, but you can clean them up in autumn.” 

Despite plentiful feed, early weaning should be considered this year, so lambs can be given the best quality pasture, rather than trying to compete with ewes on poor quality grass.

Early weaning will also provide a “maintenance mob” of ewes that can be used for grooming pastures for lambs.


Lucerne will be growing well in many areas and Lincoln University’s Professor Derrick Moot says if farmers have excess lucerne, they should drop a paddock out of the rotation and make conserved feed.

He says the key to lucerne management is to keep enough mouths on it to ensure all animals are getting high quality feed and it is not getting too tall. Quality is directly related to height and a stand should be no more than 25-30cm tall to maximise feed quality.

“A 40cm crop will be good for conserving but not for feeding growing animals.”

He says it is important to keep an eye on the lucerne stand stock are about to enter. If it is tall, then squeeze the stem from the bottom to find the point where the soft stem starts and only graze the leaf and most of the soft stem – and then shift the animals on.

“Do not make them eat the tough stem.”

He says this stem can be left and mown when it dries off for cosmetic reasons.

Read more at https://beeflambnz.com/knowledge-hub/PDF/pasture-quality-q-graze