Preparing paddocks for winter grazing

// Forage Cropping

Irrespective of possible policy changes, Beef + Lamb New Zealand is encouraging farmers to continue to implement good management practices when grazing forage crops this winter.

Image of crops

Beef + Lamb New Zealand's Principal Advisor Environmental Policy, Paul Le Miere, says while the Government has signalled an end to prescriptive Winter Grazing Regulations, it was important that farmers continue to demonstrate that they do not need onerous regulations to protect their soil and water resources and maintain high standards of animal welfare.

“Winter grazing practices have improved exponentially over recent years as farmers have listened to the science and adjusted their management to minimise their environmental impact.

"We are encouraging farmers to maintain the momentum this winter and plan ahead so they can make the best use of their winter forage crops this season, while protecting soil and water resources."

"Continued good management this year will help us as we work with the Government on a more practical farm plan-based approach to managing winter grazing." 

Mr Le Miere says dry weather in many regions may have impacted on crop yields, so tools such as the B+LNZ’s FeedSmart tool can take the guess work out of feed allocation while ensuring livestock are getting the necessary nutrition to meet their production targets.

He says the FeedSmart tool, which can be used in the paddock and offline once installed, gives instant information on feed values, the feed requirements of different stock classes and feed allocation calculations.

Before grazing, buffer zones should be set up around waterways (at least 5 metres between the waterway and the crop) and critical source areas in the paddock.   Leaving these areas ungrazed will help prevent nutrient-rich run-off getting into waterways.

Critical Source Areas (CSAs) are areas where surface runoff accumulates and can transport a disproportionate amount of sediment, nutrients and faecal matter into waterways. 

“Ideally, supplementary feed should be placed in the paddock before the paddock is grazed. This will help limit stock movement and heavy vehicles on wet soils, both of which can damage the crop and soil.”

Portable water troughs can be useful for reducing soil damage and keeping stock away from critical source areas. 

Where crops are on a slope, Mr Le Miere recommends that where practicable, break fences are placed across the slope and grazing started at the top of the paddock. This means that the standing crop will act as a filter for any run-off.

If there is a waterway in the paddock, then grazing should start at the opposite end of the paddock.

He says cattle will utilise the crop more efficiently when breaks are long and narrow. Back fencing will help miminise pugging damage and reduce the risk of run-off.

“Animal welfare considerations such as shelter and stand-off areas should have been considered at crop establishment. Where a stand-off area is unavailable, temporary bedding is a good way to allow stock to lie down and rest on firm dry ground.”

Related resources