When a pasture looks worn and weary, it may be time to renew it, but avoid doing it instantly – plan the job for best results. This operation can cost up to $600 per hectare or more when it’s done properly, so you need to calculate its costs and weight up the benefits against the drawbacks. Pasture renewal can be risky – the weather can turn against you, pests can chew the seedlings, there will be a spell when the paddock is out for growing feed, and soil can blow away when you cultivate.
When you decide to sow a new pasture there are now over 150 different certified cultivars of grasses, legumes, grazing herbs and other forages, including brassicas and fodder cereals to choose from. It’s bewildering, and even worse, most of them are sown in a seeds mixture. But by growing a mixed pasture, the livestock will have more balanced feed to graze.
The first step in planning pasture renewal is to check on the soil fertility of the paddock that isn’t performing and give it the fertiliser needed to bring it up to a suitable status. Then update your knowledge about the forage plants. Pasture plants are like any other toolkit – so choose the most suitable tools and use them properly. The idea is to select the species and the types within each species that will perform on your particular soils and in your pasture environment.
A book titled Pasture and Forage plants for New Zealand is available from the NZ Grassland Association ($20.00 within New Zealand - phone 0800 472 775). This book gives detailed independent technical information on pasture and forage species and types, and to decide exactly what seeds to sow a CD Rom called ForageMaster is now available and is easy to use.