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

B+LNZ, DairyNZ, AgResearch and the country’s regional councils joined forces to promote the following 10 practical tips around winter grazing.

  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. 

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

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

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

  7. 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.

  8. Leave the buffer strips around CSAs ungrazed and uncropped.

  9. 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.

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

Relevant resources

The following resources are relevant to all livestock farmers – dairy, beef, sheep and deer – who graze pasture or crops intensively over winter. If you would prefer face to face guidance on these or other environmental issues, you can attend one of B+LNZ's FEP or LEP workshops. View the B+LNZ Events Calendar for upcoming dates.

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