Time to plan your winter pasture priorities

Article provided by Agriseeds

It's not always easy to get through winter, but proactive management will help ensure you reach the start of spring (and lambing or calving) with your paddocks in the best possible nick, with the right amount of grass for a good start to another season.

The most important thing to remember is that treading and/or pugging are not just short-term problems, but long-term ones as well. Immediate dry matter utilisation can drop by 20% to 40%, and future yield can be severely compromised if soils are damaged, or pastures opened up. Paddocks severely pugged can also end up infested with weeds, and may need to be earmarked for undersowing with ryegrass in spring to thicken them. It helps to be prepared. You can't always avoid pasture damage, but you can have a plan in place to minimise the risk posed by wet weather.

Start with ranking your paddocks in order from most valuable (newly sown Trojan ryegrass; other young and highly productive pastures) to least valuable (poor performing paddocks, or those to be sown into crop or new pasture in spring).

The most valuable paddocks should be protected during winter at all costs. You will need them to grow to their potential in spring, and they will not be able to do that if they have been damaged.

For cattle, on/off grazing can be useful, giving animals two to four hours feed before removing them to a stand off pad, sacrifice area or yards. If you do go down this track, make sure you address any regional council effluent requirements which can apply to this situation.

Other things to consider in your winter pasture plan include:

  • Avoid grazing tetraploid ryegrass pastures during heavyrain. Diploid pastures are denser and tolerate stock treading better.
  • When cattle are on pasture in wet conditions, spread themout at a lower stocking rate to minimise damage.
  • If you have paddocks you know are vulnerable to wetconditions, graze these first, before they become sodden.
  • It may be necessary to accept higher post-grazing pastureresiduals to avoid pugging damage. Focus back onto residuals when weather allows.
  • Keep machinery off wet paddocks – feed out a couple ofdays in advance.
  • If you have a long term problem with pugging or treading,can you improve the drainage of paddocks? This will protect your soil, and improve not only pasture utilisation, but also pasture growth.


If you'd like more information about successfully managing your pastures through winter, have a word with your Farmlands Technical Field Officer.