Turning point for pastures

Turning point for pastures


Decisions will be paddock-by-paddock and tied in with rebuilding


TOO much feed for the mouths on hand will be the story for many cattle-growing regions this spring and summer and that creates its own unique set of decisions for producers.

Conditions are, of course, variable with some parts still desperate but for those having the best season they've seen in years, there are both opportunities and challenges in terms of pasture management.

Consultants say decisions will likely be made on a paddock-by-paddock basis and tied in closely to restocking and herd rebuilding plans.

The big opportunity of a wet spring for Southern Queensland livestock producers could well be in allowing pasture recovery and re-sowing pastures that have died out in recent drought years, rather than racing out and buying lots of very expensive cattle.

This spring and summer will be a turning point for many pastures, Grazing Lands consultant Col Paton, EcoRich Grazing, said.

Southern Queensland has had three consecutive years of the worst annual rainfall on record and as a result, a lot of land is in poor condition and will need time to recover.

"We had a late start to the break this year - there was some recovery but many areas will still require more time to recover," Mr Paton said.

"While some people have had good rain and pasture response, many have not, particularly on heavier cracking clay soils, where germination of new plants probably resulted in a lot of seedlings dying.

"If good rain comes between now and mid January, resting strategies should result in reasonable recovery. Once pastures have grown through to a point where they are just starting to set seed, they may have recovered well. It will be important to nurse new grass seedlings until well established."

Mr Paton said for land that has been in really poor condition, pasture replacement may be needed.

"Given La Nina is being spoken about, this is a good time to consider re-establishing sown grass pastures where they are needed, to improve land condition," he said.

"For that, good planning is needed - that means fallowing to store soil moisture and good weed control."

Conserving feed is clearly high on the agenda for many in parts of NSW where tremendous seasonal conditions are unfolding, with machinery dealers reporting they can't supply enough balers and mowers at the moment.

People will understandably want to replenish feed reserves but second to that is the opportunity to rest areas and rejuvenate some paddocks, advisors say.

Central NSW consultant at D R Agriculture Pty Ltd, David Harbison, said the first step should be paddock assessments to work out which are beyond recovery and will therefore need complete renovation and which have been able to hold onto some perenniality.

"These are what we call the 'middle range paddocks' and it's here where there will be opportunity to rest them and gain longer-term benefits," Mr Harbison said.

"Where desired composition is present but not in abundance, resting paddocks may lead to stronger perennial pastures in years to come.

"By taking this option, it means come autumn next year, producers should be in a far greater position in terms of pasture strength and stocking capacity.

"The extended rest some country will get thanks to the season ahead of us, after several extreme years, will be immensely valuable to the industry and the herd rebuild overall."

Meanwhile, broadleaf and annual weed issues were prolific at the moment, Mr Harbison said.

"Everything known to man has germinated this year. Commercially, we've been looking at strategies to control broadleaf but it's getting late in the season now and you don't want to damage clovers so I'd be reluctant to advise any broadleaf cleaning now," he said.

"Leaving pastures to rest will also see the weed seed bank expanded but I think the strategy has to be to manage the desired perennials and clovers first after the horrific last three years. Perhaps a late season spray topping at flowering of the broadleaf weeds may be an option to reduce seed set."

Of course, no one makes any money looking at good pasture so grazing management decisions need to be made strategically, enabling rejuvenation and rebuilding of the pastures in those 'middle range' paddocks as best one can, Mr Harbison said.

Consultants say good animal health programs should be in place regardless of stocking choices - up-to-date vaccinations, managing pulpy kidney in fattening stock heading into spring and where there are areas of water lying about, keep an eye on fluke.



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