New grass, new season, new production

All top producing dairy farmers know that pasture is the cheapest feed source for dairy cows. In fact, recent research undertaken at Lincoln College's dairy farm has identified that pasture production must be a major focus if you are going to increase production and improve your bottom line.

I had a client on the Hauraki Plains who had run-out pastures and average production levels. He undersowed the whole property in late March last autumn and the results were, and are, nothing short of spectacular.

So here are nine tips to help improve new pasture establishment.
  1. Be nice to your contractor so he will show up and get your job done on time. If you were last in line last season it probably means you were last to pay him the previous year. Really get your contractor's attention by offering to pay the moment he has finished your job.
  2. |Don't be miserable with the sowing rates. It is always tempting to cut back on application rates but it is false economy. It is going to cost very little extra to put that last few kilograms on as all your fixed costs have already been established.
  3. Timing of sowing is everything. There is only one week between a good and an average farmer. Get yourself organized and get that seed in the ground on time. That means March or early April – not late April or into May. I cannot emphasize time of sowing enough.
  4. A fine, firm seed bed is also important. Whether undersowing or drilling new grass, a fine firm seed bed is the go. Smaller seeds such as clover and lucerne need a finer seed bed while larger seeds are happy with a more coarse seed bed.
  5. Roll it - If you are sowing into a cultivated seed bed, consolidation during and after sowing is particularly valuable to good pasture establishment. It's a job anybody can do, just tow a Cambridge roller around the paddock at a slow pace (possibly even twice). And what does it do? It pushes the soil hard up against the seed, it conserves moisture and you will get a better and faster germination. If you get high wind or heavy rain after sowing, speed of germination to bind the soil particles is paramount.
  6. Weed Free - When establishing new pasture after a crop, once it is harvested you can sow straight into the stubble. Some sow the moment the harvester goes out the gate. If you are sowing new pasture from existing pasture, two sprays of a herbicide such as Round Up seems to kill all existing grasses and weeds. This is far preferable to having a bad weed infestation and no alternative than to selective spray.
  7. Fertilizer - Some fertilizers will boost establishment; nitrogenous fertilizer will be particularly valuable where there is stubble decaying and using up all naturally available nitrogen. Talk to your fertilizer reps for the correct nutrients to apply. If you are re-sowing pasture onto peat soils then it is a great opportunity to apply lime to the sour soils.
  8. Lightly Graze – Once the pasture gets established it is a must to graze lightly with lighter stock to minimize damage. In clover pastures this also lets the light in to help the clover establish. Clover in pasture not only has its own nitrogen cycle but is is important fodder for increased production. Keep your new pastures lightly grazed at regular intervals over the first six months.
  9. Time and Energy are required to get it right. Failure to do so will affect your cheapest source of feed on your farm.
So, be nice to your contractor, don't be miserable with seed, do it on time, sow into a fine firm seed bed, roll it, keep weeds out, feed it and keep it lightly grazed and the rewards are all yours!


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