Your top mid-winter grazing questions answered

Our Timaru land management advisors, Ian Lyttle (pictured centre) and Tom Byrne, share their top winter grazing queries from farmers.

“I know there is a bit of mud about, but what can I do?”

The best solution for dealing with excess mud starts well ahead of winter. Have a plan for when the weather turns, and the soil starts to pug and make sure it’s shared with your team.

Your plan could include a run-off paddock or a feed pad and you may need to lift your fodder beet, so you don’t have transition stock off and then back onto the paddock when the weather improves.

Planning ahead also means you can leave your swale areas grassed to filter out sediment in the run-off.  Don’t forget that a compacted, pugged soil will have a negative impact on the future production of that paddock. 

“What do you know about these catch crops?”

Catch crops are becoming more important as the research shows their effect on reducing N losses and in contributing financially to the business.

The secret is to get them in early if you can and to use cool-tolerant crops with larger seeds (oats, barley, ryecorn, annual ryegrasses).

As they grow, they take up nitrogen and reduce leaching risk. The crop can be grazed, taken for silage or even harvested for whole crop silage or seed. Your Overseer can recognise the contribution these crops make to reducing nitrogen leaching.

“What do I have to do to get my winter feed right for next year and keep the auditor happy?”

With the greater interest that auditors are taking in winter feed (including the new FEP guidelines on winter grazing), you should be already be thinking about next winter.

Having a plan for winter grazing, ideally within your Farm Environment Plan, is now expected. In brief, it’s important to protect your waterways next to the paddock, to avoid steep areas and to get stock off to prevent soil damage.  Here are a few other key points:

  • Firstly, pick the right paddock – with less slope and opportunity for off-grazing.
  • Leave any swales grassed and, to allow stock to graze strategically, make sure there is access from the top and either several water troughs or portable water troughs.
  • Set up the paddock, with baleage placed in autumn.

Your winter grazing plan should also cover the areas of risk and what you will do to manage those risks throughout winter.

“How is the new national policy statement for freshwater going to affect my winter grazing?”

Well, it hasn’t been finalised yet, but we know that Government has recognised the risk that winter grazing creates and is going to introduce new measures to reduce contaminant loss to water and ongoing soil damage.

It has been proposed that higher risk winter feed practices and locations will require a resource consent from the regional council, with the trigger for consent being based on size, slope, and setback to waterway thresholds.

The proposal also brings in stricter rules around wetland protection and stock exclusion, including setbacks from waterbodies. There is more information in the proposal on the Ministry for the Environment website.

Need more help with winter grazing?

Contact our land management team on 0800 324 326 for advice, talk to your farm consultant or industry representative, or find out more information on better winter grazing on our website.

Photo caption: Land management advisor Ian Lyttle (C) talks to farmers about winter grazing at a field day near Timaru in 2019.