Springtime pasture maintenance

Ag Advice - September 2022

Phil Cranney, Senior Land Services Officer - Pastures

With a large chunk of the next few weeks not showing any significant rainfall events on the long term, not necessarily accurate, weather forecasts, we turn our attention to the fast-growing pastures.

Lack of sunlight, waterlogging in some cases, and low soil temperatures have been the major handbrake for the pasture on the central tablelands for the past 5 months.

However, with longer days and less overcast days, we will see rapid growth from pastures on healthy soils.

Your farm business has 6 critical success factors to consider in this peak pasture production period:

  1. This is the last chance to minimise annual grass weeds seed set. A combination of high intensity grazing, and herbicide application can have a dramatic positive effect on weed seed production. Making silage from these weedy paddocks can also eliminate the viable seeds once ensiled.
  1. Check for nitrogen deficiency now. I am seeing it in the majority of paddocks, leaves a pale green to yellow in colour. If there is yellowing in the leaves of your desirable perennial pasture grasses, then you have an option of applying nitrogen to provide a pasture growth response before the quality declines. Utilisation of this extra pasture is the key to this strategy being profitable.
  1. Once firm (not boggy), prioritise grazing paddocks that are prone to waterlogging, during this rare dry weather period, will help utilise the pasture while the soils are less prone to pugging and compaction. With the predicted La Nina, eating these low paddocks down to keep quality high, will be an essential grazing management strategy.
  1. Prioritise grazing of annual dominant pastures to ensure livestock is utilising the high-quality pasture before it rapidly declines in pasture quality during senescence.
  1. Check/assess pasture biomass in the paddocks to be grazed. That paddock you planned to keep for the weaner sheep, may be one metre high with declining quality by the time the young weaners start grazing. If it is an established pasture, then overstocking a temperate perennial grass at this time of year will be rarely detrimental to pasture persistence. Remember, in general, keeping pasture at 2-3 leaf stage provides the highest quality diet.
  1. Ring your agronomist to book in some soil testing. Phosphorus is the most depleted nutrient in Central Tablelands soils. By testing each spring, you have time to plan and budget for next year’s fertiliser application and allocation to the paddocks that will provide a return on investment.

Just remember that QUALITY, not quantity, will help you win the livestock performance championship at this time of year.

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