Farmers engage in winter grazing challenge

Farmers in South Canterbury were challenged to come up with good winter grazing tactics for ‘tricky’ paddocks at a series of practical workshops in autumn 2019 to prepare for the colder, wetter months ahead.

The farmer-led workshops, held on farms near Waimate, Geraldine, Timaru and Fairlie, were organised by Environment Canterbury and Beef & Lamb NZ to encourage farmers to plan ahead for winter to reduce run-off into waterways and protect soil from damage.

This neighbourly approach – where the lead farmers invited neighbours and contacts from their area – aimed to improve winter grazing practices for cattle, by sharing tried and tested solutions that suit local conditions.

Farmer-led approach

Ben and Kate Johnson hosted the Timaru workshop at their winter feed blocks, which include some rolling downlands and waterways with an ultimate discharge into Washdyke Waitarakao Lagoon.

Ben said: “As a farmer and a custodian of the land, I’m always looking for ways to improve what we’re doing. Taking part in these workshops is just one way we can work together as a local group of farmers to share some practical ideas to get through the winter weather in a way that’s better for the land, waterways and the stock as well.”

The other host farmers were Dan Studholme (Waimate), John Wright (Fairlie) and Glen Hammond (Te Moana). The groups came up with ideas including fencing off wet areas, increasing grass buffer zones, having a ‘wet weather plan’ ready to go if cattle need to be moved, utilising fenced off areas for other purposes such as manuka production, and ensuring water troughs were well placed in paddocks to allow for strategic grazing.

Farmers worked in small groups to come up with practical ideas for good winter grazing at Ben and Kate Johnson’s property near Timaru.

Representatives from Environment Canterbury, Beef and Lamb NZ, Dairy NZ and AgResearch were also on hand to help answer specific questions on good management practices, rules and regulations and soil productivity.

Farmers giving tips for winter grazing

Sharing best practice tips

Environment Canterbury Land Management Advisor Ian Lyttle said there were some great discussions and experiences shared.

“One of the best ways for farmers to learn about new ideas for improving practice is to look ‘over the fence’ and talk with other farmers. It was great to see some good, practical and low-cost solutions being put forward over the four events,” said Ian.

Winter is just around the corner now but it’s not too late to make plans for when your paddocks get too wet to graze or ensure you’ve got portable fencing on-hand to keep stock away from wet areas.

Good management practices will reduce soil loss and soil damage, helping the environment and future production expectations.

Help with managing winter grazing

Managing winter grazing is an important part of Farm Environment Plans, which many farms are now required to prepare under the Canterbury Land and Water Regional Plan.

Farmers who didn’t attend the workshops are welcome to get in touch with a Land Management Advisor at Environment Canterbury for free advice on winter grazing via customer services on 0800 324 636 or contact their industry group such as Beef and Lamb NZ or Dairy NZ.

Find out more about winter grazing