Tuesday, 24 March 2015 00:00

Patience needed with dry pastures

Written by 
Graham Kerr, Agriseeds. Graham Kerr, Agriseeds.

Don't be tempted to give stock a “pick” at parched pastures as soon as they green-up after rain.

 “What’s the best way to kill ryegrass pasture?” Agriseeds’ Graham Kerr asked the BLNZ field day (see main story). “After a really long dry spell wait for it to green up and then have a pick off it,” he said, answering his own question.

At that point stock remove all new growth before the plant has had a chance to replenish its reserves – the reserves which it has just drained to put out a new leaf after drought. Let it grow until there are three new leaves on each tiller, and reserves will be replenished and normal grazing can resume, he explained.

Kerr recommended categorising pastures in preparation for the end of the drought: category one, those in good condition that will recover rapidly; category two, those that are doubtful; category three, those that are “poked” and need renewing.

Category one pastures would be the most important post drought as they’d be the fastest to grow out of it, so need looking after. “These are the ones that are going to set you up for winter.”

A wait and see approach could be taken with category two, but some category three paddocks should be sown with forage cereal, annual ryegrass, or possibly leafy turnip to provide a fast feed crop.

“Coming out of the dry you’re going to be short of winter and spring feed so some of these short-term options are going to be a huge part of your plan.”

Assuming the previous pasture wouldn’t recover, direct drilling into such paddocks would work well. If the old sward revived, its established root system would put it at an advantage to the seedlings and direct drilling without cultivation or spray could be a waste of time, he warned. If the decision is to sow, research shows it can be an advantage not to wait for rain. “The ones we sowed in the dry produced a lot more feed.”

Doing some paddocks with longer-term options such as an Italian or hybrid ryegrass, or even permanent pasture, should be considered to avoid having to reseed everything again in the spring, and leaving a proportion of the reseeding until after rain spreads risk and can allow for better weed control.

When sowing longer-term pastures Kerr says go through a checklist (see panel) ensuring every “link of the chain” is in place to ensure success.

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