Severe feed shortages in parts of the country mean many ewes are on a nutritional knife-edge heading into lambing and could be at risk of developing metabolic disorders.
When done correctly, winter grazing is an effective way to keep animals fed and healthy over winter in a pastoral-based farming system when grass growth is low or non-existent.
Farmers are being encouraged by B+LNZ to take a proactive approach to preserving their soil and water resources over winter while ensuring animal welfare standards are maintained.
B+LNZ general manager North Island Matt Ward says simple practices such as grazing from the top of a slope, keeping the break long and narrow, back-fencing and using bale rings and portable water troughs can all make a significant difference to preventing pugging and nutrient run-off.
Building on the last year’s recommendations from the Ministry for Primary Industries-led Winter Grazing Task Force report, he says this year’s campaign has a particular focus on animal welfare.
“It is important stock are provided with loafing areas when they are on winter feed crops. This might mean a run-off block or stand-off pad or even a headland with straw provided as bedding.”
Farmers are urged to have contingency plans in case of prolonged bad weather or extreme weather events, so stock are not trampling sodden soils or feed crops.
The campaign is part of ongoing work by B+LNZ and other organisations to inform and encourage farmers to follow best-practice management of their forage crops before, during and after grazing.
Matt says this a high priority for B+LNZ as forage crops are a valuable component of many farm systems, particularly in colder parts of the country where grass doesn’t grow over winter.
“While the vast majority of farmers are striving to do their best to protect their soils and water resources, as well as ensuring their stock are well cared for, there are often opportunities to refine management of forage crops as new science, information and tools become available.”
He says the willingness by farmers to embrace new techniques and practices has been reflected in strong interest in workshops and seminars outlining best practice management.
B+LNZ’s winter grazing campaign is supported by regional councils, DairyNZ and Ballance Agri-Nutrients.
More information and advice for winter grazing is available here: https://beeflambnz.com/wintergrazing
A video on why farmers winter graze forage crops is also available here: https://vimeo.com/347408860