Underperforming pastures could be costing you profits, so you might want to consider a pasture renovation.
If your pastures are underperforming and aren’t keeping up with your expectations, it might be time to put in a new one. The right pasture mix for your situation will give you better feed options and quality, and thus improve your livestock profits. You can identify which pastures might need renovation by comparing your production and grazings from all pasture paddocks. The paddocks which are grazed on average a few times less than others might need a reno. Below is information about what you should consider regarding your current pastures, plus management tips to assist with maximising the productivity of your property.
Why you might choose to renovate a pasture:
- It might have obvious or measured poor composition
- Your grazing records/pasture measurements show underperformance
- It might be time to introduce improved cultivars
- Part of an on-going farm improvement plan
- You want to maximise income potential or achieve particular production targets.
Why your previous pastures might have underperformed:
- Did you over or under graze?
- Was there a decline in fertility?
- Were the wrong species or types used?
- Environmental extremes?
- Was it a combination of a number of the above? (As is most commonly the case).
What are the effects of grazing mismanagement?:
If you over-graze for too long or have too short of a rest-phase you might notice:
- A loss of valuable plant species
- Noticeable bare ground which could increase cockchafers, erosion, and annual weeds
If you under-graze, you might notice:
- Selective grazing of only palatable species
- Crowding out of prostrate species
- The proliferation of weedy biennials and perennials
How to renovate a pasture and how much to sow.
Identify the paddocks to renovate, test soil fertility and choose a renovation method that suits your needs. Re-evaluate your strategies to ensure you utilise the extra pasture grown and turn it into income, e.g. a higher stocking rate. The three main ways to renovate a pasture are cultivation, spray-drill and over-sowing. Annual pasture renewal varies widely, from 5% to 100%. How much you sow depends on the performance of existing pastures and the potential gains that can be delivered by new pasture in your system. This decision in turn affects your choice of renovation technique.
Some management tips:
1: Soil test your pastures as you would your crops
A soil test is essential to achieve production expectations and may often save money on unnecessary fertiliser. The below figures are a general guide only.
2: Give your clovers a fighting chance.
If a good legume content is desired, keep the sowing rate of grasses relatively modest and increase clover percentage in a mix, or adapt other tactics such as cross-sowing. Early grazing management should allow for a quick first grazing to open up the sward, then let the clovers have room and sunlight.
3: Post-sowing weed control is essential
Control of emerging weeds is important post-sowing. Timely sowing plus good seed placement will offer quick, even emergence that will assist in good herbicide timing. Please have a chat with one of our agronomists on advice for suitable options, timings and overall approach.
4: New pastures are likely to offer more grazing than older ones.
Treat them carefully and apply extra fertiliser to maintain performance if more grazing than usual has taken place.
5: Measure performance and pasture growth.
Use grazing records, and pasture measurements and make notes.
6: Remember to soil test at regular intervals (every 3-4 years)
7: Create a fertiliser budget: Apply maintenance PKS and traces if needed.
8: Keep an eye on pests. Monitor and respond like your grain crops.
9: Keep on top of broadleaf weeds. Control before weeds start to set flower.
10: Control weedy grasses: Utilise winter cleaning and/or pasture topping.
11: Develop a calendar of pasture monitoring and probable maintenances and seek advice to assist with technical issues and tactical options. I.e. call us!
Information from Barenbrug Pasture Renovation Guide Edition 4.0, 2020