Autumn break - Plan to protect your pasture
Maximise quality and quantity
Written by Phil Cranney, 23 April 2015
Autumn Break = Ideal opportunity to build a wedge of high quality feed for Winter
After a great Autumn break, in most areas it is the perfect time to plan to maximise the reproductive efficiency of your enterprise by managing pasture growth and manipulating composition.
While the mean daily minimum ground temperature for the Orange Agricultural Institute site between 1976 to 2015 has been 1.1 degree for May, soil temperatures vary within the landscape and region.
Much of the Cabonne, Cowra and the Western half of the Mid-western LGA's pasture growth will not be limited by low soil temperatures until June.
Therefore this Autumn break represents an ideal opportunity to build a wedge of high quality feed for Winter.
Producers should be targeting 1500kgs/HA for singles and 2000kgs/HA for twin bearing ewes at the point of lambing
Many producers delay grazing cool season pastures until three leaf stage. This will replenish root reserves and improve pasture persistence and productivity.
Additional benefit of spelling perennial pasture
The additional benefit of spelling perennial pasture after a break like we've had, is allowing the beneficial pasture species to more effectively compete with the undesirables like serrated tussock seedlings
Native grasslands that could maintain dry matter greater than 2 t/ha and 100% ground cover could successfully prevent survival of Serrated Tussock seedling.
Even relatively low levels of perennial grass pasture (greater than 0.5 t/ha) resulted in death of Serrated Tussock seedlings up to 12 months old. (Warwick Badgery, Research Agronomist, NSW DPI)
Livestock health issues
With such a prolonged dry period leading into this beneficial break there are many livestock health issues that have to be considered. Brett Littler, Livestock Officer with Central Tablelands LLS advises that:
"While animals are chasing green pick it may be highly digestible feed, but there is a high chance of mortality if Me intake is not adequate. Paddock choice and possible short term supplementation with high quality hay may reduce these risks."
Splitting mobs can be a useful whole farm profitability lever when pasture is growing quickly. Separating livestock into at least two groups, one of high to moderate demands and one of low demands, is an effective way of improving pasture utilisation and productivity.
A producer may have all his spring lambing ewes in for drenching, after high epg counts have identified a problem that can't wait until scanning in mid-June.
This is the perfect opportunity to draft off the poor-average condition animals and allocate high quality feed to this group in preference to the group that are 4-5 fat score that can run on poorer quality pasture, e.g. red grass paddocks with no clover content.
At scanning, any empties in the poor to average group will be putting on weight and deliver a better return when sold.
Soil fertility, if not already addressed, must also be considered if you are wanting to maximise pasture production.
Be wary of soil test results immediately after a long awaited Autumn break such as this, as they may well be inflated due to rapid mineralisation of soil nutrients.
However, ensuring that your pH, Phosphorus and Sulphur levels are near critical levels is a critical step in maintaining quality pasture in your paddocks.
Phil Cranney, Pastures Officer
Phone: 6363 7888