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Pasture Renovation Tips

pastureThis is the fourth in a series of four articles on pasture renovation by Dr Deric Charlton.

Managing the new pasture
  • Encourage young grass plants to tiller and form new shoots from the plant base.
  • Check for pest and slug attack - even at night in wet weather, when slugs feed!
  • Try pulling young plants 1 cm above ground. If they come out, delay the first grazing.
  • Light grazing with sheep or calves is best.
  • Graze when the pasture is dry - avoids treading damage.
  • Watch out for yellowing in the new pasture, denoting nitrogen shortage.
  • Prevent weed invasion - you can spray emerging weeds.
Why do new pastures fail?
  • The sown seed never penetrated the soil surface.
  • The soil was too wet when cultivating.
  • The seedbed was too course or too fine.
  • New pasture grazed too early - try the pulling test.
  • New pasture grazed too late.
  • Pasture was grazed when it was too wet and was pugged.
  • Seed rate was too high - emerging plants were too weak to compete.
  • The seed was sown too deep - failed to emerge.
  • Poor fertiliser use - not based on soil tests.
  • The pests and slugs were not noticed or killed.
  • Nothing done to improve poor drainage.
  • Poor quality seed was used.
Seeds mixtures - what should I sow?
  • Get the right information before sowing!
  • Read your farming press and check farming websites.
  • Discuss your needs with a local consultant or seed retailer.
  • Make sure you sow the species, types and varieties (cultivars) that suit your farm.
  • The New Zealand Grassland Association sells a pocket guidebook for $10.
  • Livestock also enjoy a varied diet! Sow one grass (or maybe a perennial ryegrass and a hybrid ryegrass together), two white clover types, and maybe red clover, chicory or plantain.
  • Check the P (purity) and G (germination) certificate that must be available with the seeds mixture.
  • Ensure that weed content, if any, is very low - one year’s seeding means seven years weeding!
  • Ensure seed germination level is high (over 80%).
How much to sow?
  • Enough to spread about 400 legume seeds and 1,000 grass seeds per square metre.
  • In practice, this is usually around 20-25 kg/ha in total, with about 10-20 kg/ha grass and 3-6 kg/ha clovers.
Costs (2001)
  • A recent cost-benefit analysis, undertaken on sheep and deer systems in southern South Island, costed pasture renewal at $400/ha for direct drilling
  • Full cultivation was costed at up to $550/ha.
  • Benefits were assumed to peak at 2-4 years after sowing and last 10 years.

Sheep farm productivity increased by 132% and deer farm production by 60 %. Net income increased by around $400/ha (sheep) and almost $200/ha (deer). Adding chicory increased the advantage to $500/ha for sheep and $300/ha for deer farms.

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