Winter Feed – Planning ahead for next winter

After a mild winter, it could be easy for farmers to forget about winter feed issues, like muddy pugging and sediment loss. However, spring is one of the best times to take action to prepare for winter.

Sediment losses to waterways from winter feed are a real issue in farms on South Canterbury’s rolling hills. Farms can lose more than half their annual nutrient losses during winter from grazing winter feed crops if mitigations haven’t been put in place.

More farmers are realising there are positive actions they can take – which are often low or neutral cost - to substantially reduce nutrient and sediment losses throughout the year.

Planning your winter feed

Planning your winter feed paddock is the first step in reducing nutrient and sediment losses.

At this time of the year, planning for next year should start with selecting the paddock that will be used and where the stock access to the paddock will be.

Key things to consider:

What are the risks that sediment losses from grazing winter feed will enter waterways?
Think about how close a waterway is to the paddock; whether there is a gully running through the block that will carry water away during rains, what you soil type and soil compaction is like. Identify your wet areas – also known as Critical Source Areas – in the paddock.
Can sediment be filtered out by a grass buffer between the paddock and waterway?
Think about how close a waterway is to the paddock; whether there is a gully running through the block that will carry water away during rains, what you soil type and soil compaction is like. Identify your wet areas – also known as Critical Source Areas – in the paddock.
Can I leave any gullies in the paddock grassed, in order to filter out sediment?
This is a highly effective way of preventing sediment losses from the paddock – as long as you avoid grazing it until the rest of the grazing is finished. This is highly effective in mitigating run-off and sediment losses
Have I planned to graze the block from the top down to the gully or bottom of the slope?
This is the lowest cost and most effective strategy to significantly reduce sediment and other contaminant losses from the paddock.
Can I give the stock access to the winter feed from the top of the block, not the bottom?
You will need to do this to increase your effectiveness in grazing from the top down.
Is the water supply accessed towards the top of the block?
This is needed for your top down grazing. Additional troughs will mean less pugging and soil damage. You could also plan to have additional troughs available when grazing starts.
Have I got an option to take stock out of the paddock when the soil gets wet and pugged?
It’s better to have your Plan B ready now. Think of your soil structure and how it will be after a wet winter if stock are on it for the whole grazing time. Did you know stock can get the feed they need in eight hours or less? Taking them off after eight hours hugely reduces soil damage and secures a much more productive soil in the future. Pugging and soil compaction has a significant effect on the productive capacity of the soil and growth of the next pasture or crop.

If you need more guidance and information you are welcome to get in touch with a land management advisor on 0800 324 636 or visit www.canterburywater.farm.