Planning ahead for winter grazing

// Forage Cropping

With autumn looming, farmers are being encouraged to think about their winter grazing management plans including the placement of straw and baleage feeders and portable water troughs.

image of winter crops

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s North Island General Manager, Corina Jordan, says there has been a noticeable change in winter grazing practices in recent years, in response to farmers having a better understanding of the impact of their management decisions on their soil and water resources.

“Farmers have responded to the science and the information provided by their representative organisations and Regional Councils and made changes to the way they grow and manage their winter forage crops. This has helped minimise their impact on the environment while maintaining high standards of animal welfare.”

Corina says anecdotally, forage crops in most parts of the country are looking very healthy and adds that it is pleasing to hear farmers in wetter climates such as Southland, have been placing baleage out in the crops ready for feeding in winter.

“This is a great example of farmers planning ahead to minimise the traffic on wet soils. This protects the soil structure and reduces run-off.”

One Southland dairy farmer spoken to says running vehicles on wet soils causes far more damage than treading, with damaged paddocks often requiring remedial attention.

He places his baleage in the paddock during summer so that it can be easily fed out manually with each  grazing break over winter.

Corina says farmers should also be considering the provision of loafing areas, run-offs, and the use of catch crops, such as oats, to capture any nitrogen left in the wake of winter grazing.

“Get in early and order the seed now. Straw might also be difficult to source this year due to poor harvest conditions, so order ahead or consider alternatives.”

She says critical source areas should also be fenced off well ahead of winter.

Corina encourages farmers to work through the Forage Cropping Management Plan which is a chapter in B+LNZ’s Farm Plan or available as a stand-alone resource.

“This helps farmers identify any risks and ensures they are utilising their feed resources while protecting their livestock and environment.”