Top tips for grazing forage crops

Good environmental outcomes require good environmental practice. Farmers are already doing some great work in the environment space, but there is still much to be done. Managing winter grazing so it has minimal impact on waterways is an area that can be addressed with some forward planning and simple management tweaks.
Friday, 25 May 2018

Partnering for maximum impact

In the lead-up to the winter of 2017, B+LNZ, DairyNZ, AgResearch and the country’s regional councils joined forces to promote the following 10 practical tips around winter grazing. That successful campaign continues this winter.


  1. Exclude stock from waterways. Create an ungrazed buffer zone between the livestock and the waterway. About 3-5 metres is a good starting point, but this should increase with slope and instability of soil.

  2. Leave an ungrazed buffer zone around Critical Source Areas (CSAs). Critical Source Areas are parts of the paddock that can channel overland flow directly to waterways (e.g. gullies, swales, very wet areas, spring heads, waterway crossings, stock camps and vehicle access routes).


  3. Graze paddocks strategically. On a sloping paddock, fence across the slope and start grazing at the top of the slope. That way, the standing crop acts as a filter. Or, if there is a waterway in the paddock, start grazing at the far end of the paddock. 


    1. Make breaks “long and narrow” – research shows that the crop will be utilised more efficiently by cattle. 

    2. Back fence. Regularly backfence stock off grazed breaks to help minimise pugging damage and to reduce runoff risk.

    3. Place troughs and supplementary feed in a dry part of the paddock well away from any waterways or CSAs.

    4. Look after your stock. Provide adequate feed, shelter and clean fresh drinking water. Doing this will limit stock movement and help reduce damage to crop and soil.

    5. Graze the buffer strips around CSAs when soil is not so wet and risk of loss has reduced. Graze quickly and lightly if you can.

    6. Plant a catch crop. Where soil conditions and farm management allow, consider planting a fast growing crop in spring such as greenfeed oats. It can make a dramatic difference to reducing nitrogen losses.

    7. Plan early. When choosing paddocks for next year’s winter feed crop, think about how you can improve your management of CSAs and waterways.


    The following resources are relevant to all livestock farmers – dairy, beef, sheep and deer – who graze pasture or crops intensively over winter.

    Preparing for winter



    • Video: Best practice winter feeding cattle (40 mins). This recorded lecture presented by Lincoln scientist Jim Gibbs covers high-performance beef finishing, including the role of winter grazing, crop options and adjusting cattle to new crops.
    • Download: Wintering on crops in the South Island (PDF, 2.04MB). This dairy-based guide is relevant to all cattle farmers. It provides tips on paddock selection, reducing overland water flow, cultivation and strategic crop grazing.
    • Video: Profitable crop for cattle wintering (2 mins). Growing high-yielding fodder beet means Geoff and Rebecca Mavor can graze many animals on a small area, freeing up land for other enterprises.
    • Download: Management practices for forage brassicas (PDF, 3.8MB). Compiled by the Forage Brassica Development Group, this detailed document includes information on brassica cultivars, crop establishment and feeding.


    During winter



    • Download: Feed planning in a tough winter (PDF, 76KB). Are you feeding stock enough today? Have you got enough feed for the next three weeks? What about the rest of the winter? This fact sheet is full of information that will help you plan your way through the rest of winter.


    • Podcast: Managing the risk of Mycoplasma bovis during winter grazing (43 mins). Massey University Associate Professor in Product Animal Health Richard Laven was part of the team that first recognised that Mycoplasma bovis was in New Zealand. He explains precautions graziers and owners can take to help prevent spreading the disease.

    After winter

    • Download: Winter forage crops: management after grazing (PDF, 3.45MB). This fact sheet covers options for minimising soil structure damage and productivity losses, post grazing. Some simple steps – such as allowing soils time to dry out before cultivating – can make a big difference.