Preparing livestock paddocks for the year ahead

AG ADVICE - February 2022

Brett Littler - Senior Land Services Officer, Livestock

Last year some producers experienced livestock issues that were directly related to the season, but also due to failure to prepare paddocks to meet livestock requirements and desired performance.

Right now is the time to think and act on your paddock preparation for livestock for the season ahead.

Poor livestock weight gain, grass tetany, decreased lamb survival and many other things can be influenced by poor paddock preparation or selection. One of the biggest issues that we saw last year was the lack of legumes, in particular the amount of sub clover in a lot of paddocks.

Legumes are high in magnesium, and drive livestock and pasture performance because these contribute nitrogen to the pastures and soil. An increase in legume component in a lot of pasture last year would have been more beneficial then harmful (Yes bloat was an issue for some last year) and would have helped give a performance kick and at the very least minimise some of the issues experienced last year.

The lack of legume in lots of pasture last year could be put down to the season, lack of stock numbers, mice, etc. but it could have been a simple lack of planning and incorrect paddock preparation. Some factors that influence sub clover germination are well known and were not managed well by some producers.

So how do we improve our sub clover content in some important paddocks for 2022? In 2020 we had a very good sub clover year. There was a huge amount of seed set about the Central Tablelands area so in most places there is still seed there (excluding where mice had a big influence).

Ensure a good hard graze in autumn to remove dry pasture and undertake good weed control to reduce competition and shading of establishing legume seedlings. This is essential and was one of the major contributing factors for our poor ‘clover year’ last year.

The under grazing competition from weeds and shading from dry standing pastures lead to a poor clover year. So now is the time to plan, pick some paddocks for the year ahead, set your pasture/livestock goals and then manage your paddocks accordingly.

With the current season and stock prices this may make it difficult to manage across your whole property, but it is something that can be managed by concentrating on a few paddocks and planning ahead.

Ideally prioritise different classes of stock and assess their likely needs. Review which stock need a particular type of feed, and whether certain paddocks have the quantity, quality and the desired legume component. If these paddocks don’t meet your needs, then what supplement or management is going to be required to meet the requirements or to minimise likely issues?

Undertaking some grazing management changes like weed control, fodder conservation or some tactical fertiliser and seed could all be options to manipulate your pasture and improve the legume content of your pasture.

For practical advice or tips to improve your legume content of your pastures please speak to one of our pasture advisors.

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