The start of winter heralds the launch of Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s winter grazing campaign which reminds farmers of the importance of following best practice management.
The campaign launch comes one week after the government announced its Essential Freshwater proposals which included a focus on winter grazing practices and hill country cropping.
While B+LNZ will be working through the details of the policy proposal, irrespective of these, farmers are being encouraged to take a proactive approach to preserving their soil and water resources over winter while ensuring animal welfare standards are maintained.
B+LNZ General Manager North Island, Matt Ward says simple practices such as grazing from the top of slope, keeping the break long and narrow, back-fencing and using bale rings and portable water troughs can all make a significant difference to preventing pugging and nutrient run-off.
He says it is important stock are provided with loafing areas when they are on winter feed crops and this might mean a run-off block or stand-off pad or even a headland with straw provided as bedding.
Stock should always have access to a comfortable lying surface over winter, cattle need around 9m/head, and there should be enough room for all stock to lie down comfortably at the same time and display natural behaviours like cudding.
Farmers are urged to have contingency plans in case of prolonged bad weather or extreme weather events, so stock are not trampling sodden soils or feed crops, says Matt.
“What is good for the environment is also good for animal welfare so having a run-off or stand-off pad during bad weather prevents pugging, feed wastage and gives stock a clean area to lie down.”
Ideally, Critical Source Areas, or areas within a paddock that carry over-ground waterflow, should have been identified and fenced off before grazing, but if areas suddenly appear, such as spring emerging, then they should be fenced off and crop or grass left ungrazed until they are dry later in the year.
Matt says the government has made it very clear in the Essential Freshwater proposals that winter grazing practices will once again be under close scrutiny, so it is up to everyone to ensure they are protecting their soil and water resources and livestock.
He suggests farmers consider growing a catch-crop, where appropriate, to mop-up excess nutrients and prevent them being lost to the environment.
“Catch-crops such as oats turn excess nutrients into valuable dry matter so are a win: win for the environment and the bottom line.”
B+LNZ’s winter grazing campaign is supported by regional councils, DairyNZ and Ballance Agri-Nutrients.
For more information, and tips and tricks about winter grazing go to: https://beeflambnz.com/wintergrazing