Planning to make the best use of winter forage crops

// Forage Cropping

As farmers transition stock onto winter feed crops, B+LNZ is encouraging farmers to continue the good management practices they have implemented in recent years.

Winter grazing

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Environment Policy Manager, Heather McKay, says regional councils have been reporting substantial improvements in the management of intensively grazed winter crops, and this is helping to protect soil, nutrient and water resources as well as animal welfare.

Mrs McKay says simple management strategies such as using long narrow breaks, placing troughs and feeders in the driest part of the paddock and ensuring all critical areas and waterbodies are fenced off with a wide, ungrazed buffer zone will make a real difference to soil structure and water quality.

She says research has shown that implementing good grazing management practices can reduce phosphorous and sediment losses by 80-90%. The estimated cost of lost topsoil and nutrients from winter grazing can be as much as $50-$60/ha per year.

“Where possible, start grazing from the top of a slope as this will help prevent nutrient run-off with the standing crop acting as a filter.”

Mrs Mckay says a feed management plan is a useful tool to help farmers ensure the nutritional needs of their livestock are being met to achieve either weight gains or required condition scores.

“B+LNZ’s FeedSmart tool, which can be used in the paddock, is particularly useful for working out feed allocations and building a grazing plan.”

To ensure high standards of animal welfare are maintained throughout winter, livestock should have access to shelter and loafing areas and a contingency plan should be in place in case of adverse weather.

“Planning is the key to make the most out of your winter forage crops, and there are templates available to help make building a wintering plan an easy process. 

“A plan helps clarify thinking, ensures the whole farm team knows what is required and is proof of the intention to implement good management practices if ever one is required by regulators or market supply contracts.”