Planning now for winter forage crop management

// Forage Cropping

Going into autumn, Beef + Lamb New Zealand is encouraging farmers to think about how they will manage their winter fodder crops, particularly in a year when feed resources are likely to be tight.

winter crops

B+LNZ General Manager North Island Matt Ward says it has been a challenging summer for many regions and this places extra pressure on limited feed resources.

While winter crops have been struggling, they will still be a valuable source of feed in winter and farmers should be thinking about their stocking rates, identifying and fencing off critical source areas (if they have not already done so) and making a plan for managing stock in extreme weather events.

Matt says improving winter grazing practices is a major priority for B+LNZ from both an environmental and animal welfare perspective. 

“We are continually updating farmers on best-practice environmental and animal welfare management advice so they can use winter fodder crops while minimising their environmental impact and ensuring the highest standards of animal welfare are maintained.”

“Ensuring winter grazing goes well requires year-round planning.”

He says an un-grazed buffer of three to five metres should surround any critical source areas- which are defined as waterways, springs, gullies or any areas over which water may run in winter. 

Matching the crop and the paddock with the stock class (lighter stock on heavier soils) and using the FeedSmart app to calculate feed allocation and how many stock the crop will feed for how long, is a good place to start.

“Ideally a run-off paddock or feed-pad would be available for standing stock off in heavy rainfall events or snow, so soils are not damaged and the risk of run-off is minimized. Shade and shelter should be available to stock at all times, as should fresh water.”

Farmers could also be thinking about the direction of grazing. Breaks should be long and narrow and placed across the slope and stock grazed from the top of the paddock so the crop acts as a filter for run-off.

Matt suggests farmers consider using portable water troughs which can be shifted with the break and prevent stock congregating around a single water source.

The positioning of supplementary feed also needs to be taken into account, to prevent or minimize pugging and run-off.

“Many farmers are under a lot of pressure going into winter, and it is critical that best management practice is adhered to when it comes to grazing winter feed crops if we are to retain these as a valuable winter management tool,” says Matt.

He says B+LNZ will be conducting a major media campaign to get the right information to farmers this year and holding a number of events around the country so farmers can be kept up-to-date with winter management strategies.