Friday, 17 May 2019 09:07

Wintering practices are critical

Written by  Bala Tikkisetty, sustainable agriculture advisor at Waikato Regional Council
Bala Tikkisetty. Bala Tikkisetty.

Soil damage during winter is a big issue for farmers. It coincides with high stock densities and high soil moisture conditions.

Stock wintering systems play a major role in water quality and soil health, because stock are then grazing during a time of much hydrological activity that moves contaminants off land and into nearby waterbodies. 

General practice during winter is to graze stock intensively on winter forage crops supplying large quantities of feed in a relatively small area. 

Now is the right time for farmers to consider the impact of stock wintering practices. These can impact surface and ground water quality and soil quality due to heavy concentrations of dung and urine, the creation of bare ground and the risk of run-off in wet weather. Many studies have shown that water quality guidelines and standards have been exceeded as a result of intensive agricultural activities.

Here are some stock wintering options that can achieve good environmental results, are animal-friendly and make economic sense.

Feed and stand-off pads protect soil physical structure in wet weather. The feed pad is a dedicated concrete platform where supplementary feeds are brought to the stock. It has higher feed efficiency, reducing wastage to about 5% versus 20% or more when silage is fed in paddocks.

Stand-off pads are a dedicated loafing area for stock. These have a softer, free-draining surface of, say, wood chips. As stock can be withheld from pasture for longer times, the area required per cow has to be bigger, say, about 8m2. Capture of effluent is an important aspect of stand-off pads. It requires the base to be sealed underneath, either with compacted clay or an artificial liner or concrete, and the captured effluent directed to a treatment system.

Animal shelters are gaining popularity. Herd homes are a combination of a feeding platform, stand-off facility and animal shelter. Sheltered feeding areas have concrete floor slats through which cow effluent drops into a concrete-lined bunker.

Composting barns are another stock wintering option, with the composting occurring in situ. The cows roam freely in the barn and lie on a mix of wood chips and straw. The beds must be kept dry by adequate ventilation and aeration.

In the past, sacrifice paddocks have been used when other options were not available to stand animals off or feed supplements when it is very wet. However, there is a risk of soil structure damage and animal health problems such as lameness and mastitis. 

If soil potassium levels rise too high (potassium is excreted in urine) it may predispose the calving cow to metabolic problems. These paddocks come with a very high risk of discharges of contaminants to water, so they must be sited well away from waterways, with an area of rank growth to trap any sediment or dung that washes off. 

Build your wintering structure well away from waterways and allow for solid and liquid waste disposal into your effluent disposal system. Don’t use supplementary feeds in areas where run-off may reach any waterbody. 

By planning now and implementing proper stock wintering management practices, you can play an important part in improving water quality and soil health. 

• Bala Tikkisetty is a sustainable agriculture advisor at Waikato Regional Council. Contact him on 0800 800 401.

More like this

Council urges farmers to be vigilant

Waikato Regional Council is urging farmers to be vigilant after seven separate court cases found farmers to have unlawfully discharged farm effluent into the environment.

Answers are in the soil

Wairarapa sheep farmer Rob Dick is on a mission to reduce his property’s environmental footprint as quickly as possible – and his approach starts with the soil.

Spring up with fertilisers

With spring in the air and soils starting to warm up over the next few weeks, farmers will be preparing to fertilise their paddocks.

Featured

Dairy conversion - Otaki style

Near the Horowhenua town of Otaki, dairy conversion has taken on a whole new meaning. It’s not a case of converting sheep and beef farms to dairy farms, rather it’s a case of just converting old dairy sheds to country style tourist accommodation. Reporter Peter Burke visited two such conversions by two pretty special and creative women.

 

Bringing flat batteries to life

Given the absence of power outlets in many remote buildings on New Zealand farms, there’s every chance of ending up with a flat battery when away from civilisation for an extended period.

Kuhn bolsters mower range

Kuhn has bolstered its mower conditioner range with the addition of two rear mounted/ vertical folding models with a 3.10m working width.

2020 property market closes on a healthy note

Data release by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) shows there were 175 more farm sales for the three months ending December 2020 than for the same period in 2019.

National

Expat workers ready for NZ

Dairy industry recruitment company Rural People Limited is seeing a huge increase in overseas interest to fill New Zealand farming…

Machinery & Products

Kubota ROPS tractors here

Kubota New Zealand product specialist Shaun Monteith says Rollover Protective Structure (ROPS) tractors make up 30% of all tractors in…

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

Milking It

Dung paint

India now has its own cow dung paint, a world-first. 

Fresh for 60 days

A Queensland-based company is set to release its own production of milk this year that stays fresh for at least…

» Connect with Dairy News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter