Increasing pasture growth heading into winter
13 June 2018
With autumn resulting in less than favourable conditions across a lot of the state, many farmers are going into winter with less pasture in front than desired.
Agriculture Victoria Livestock Extension Officer Fiona Baker said pasture growth rates during winter can be doubled, through good grazing and pasture management.
"In June 2016, a farm in East Gippsland compared grazed strategies of two paddocks side by side. One paddock was grazed for two days, the other grazed for six days. Both paddocks were strip-grazed, but stock were not excluded from re-grazing areas they had been the day before.
"A month later, when pasture growth rates were measured, the paddock grazed for two days had double the growth rate of the one that was grazed six days (18kgDM/ha/day). The difference in leaf size of the regrowing pastures was also vastly different between the two," she said.
Running temporary troughs off the main trough and moving the new strip, or fencing it behind, can help to minimise the effects of back-grazing in the system and further increase growth rates.
Another alternative to improving winter feed growth is using urea.
"With fodder costs rising this winter, urea can be a very cost-effective means of growing extra feed.
"An application of nitrogen fertiliser is most efficient when applied at rates between 60-100kg Urea per hectare. If growth conditions are moderate (soil temperature is above 12 degrees and plants have reasonable leaf area and moisture) response rates should be around 10:1.
"It is important that stock are kept off the paddock for 21 days post urea application, as nitrate toxicity can be a concern if grazed too early," Ms Baker said.
A third option is to use gibberellic acid, which is a naturally occurring plant hormone. Generally, the colder the day time temperatures, the better the response.
The rapid plant growth that can occur through the use of gibberellic acid leads to plants often being lighter in colour, however this doesn't affect the quality of feed on offer. Ideally, stock should be kept off the pastures for 3 weeks after application, to allow maximum response.
"Phalaris based pastures are highly responsive to gibberellic acid with recommended rates of application of 2.5 to 10 g of gibberellic acid/100L water. Whilst pastures that are dominant in perennial ryegrass, annual ryegrass or cocksfoot, require 20g/100L water. But as each product is different, follow the recommended rates."
If soils are not moist enough to support plant growth it is recommended holding off on applying until soil moisture levels improve.
Categorised under: Agriculture