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Pasture planning is key

Northern Tablelands Local Land Services Pastures Agronomist, Georgie Oakes


Very scattered summer storms continue across the Northern Tablelands region. With hot weather and the reduced pasture competition weeds are poking their leaves out. If you have been buying in feed please keep an eye out for new weeds on your farm. If you are bringing stock home from agistment be aware of the possibility of weed seed spread. Kangaroos, deer and birds are being forced to travel further for their food and are also contributing to the spread of weeds.

If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to do an evaluation of the food you currently have on offer (FOO) in the paddock. The days are getting shorter as we head into autumn which will gradually reduce the growth of pastures as will the reduced rainfall. Historically this time of year is our region’s second feed gap and, due to the low rainfall, our dry standing haystack is severely depleted.

Looking to winter

Producers really need to consider what winter pastures they have and the health of these pastures. You need to ask yourself what the soil moisture is like at depth and what the nutrition levels of these pastures are like.

I can’t stress enough the importance of taking the time to honestly forecast how these winter pastures are going to perform for you over a dry winter. When making these assessments it is really important to also know what class of stock you will have and the feed demands of each class. Will you be feeding weaners, lactating or dry stock?

Fodder crop options – traditionally the region has used fodder crops to assist with the known ’winter feed gap’. When choosing a fodder crop, again consider the class of stock that you will be feeding and when their feed demand is going to be high. You may need to consider a forage or variety that offers early or late feed at your time of peak demand.

Have your seed organised - last season’s harvest was severely reduced. When purchasing seed it is imperative you ask questions. What year’s seed is it? How has it been stored? Has it been treated? And with what? Has a germination and vigour test been done to ascertain the quality of the product?

I understand that these are some tougher questions and that time can be poor and your options for choice will be reduced, however you want to sow the best quality seed possible for the best possible outcome considering the cost and time required.

Spring/Summer 2019-2020

The long range forecast suggests a dry winter so we need to consider the feed options and pastures we will have on offer in spring? I realise it can be difficult to plan this far ahead when we are so flat out now.

Spring maybe when you’re thinking of stepping back into the livestock market after destocking for the winter. What pasture varieties will you have coming to life as the temperatures warm up? What do you think the composition, health and nutrition of these pastures will be? Will you have the option for summer forage if it does rain? Or will you need to use a summer forage to combat weeds as competition rather than using chemicals to control weeds?

If you are considering planting pastures or summer forage or fodder options in the 2019-2020 summer start doing your homework now! We are already seeing a shortage in seed for both pasture and forage. It will take a few seasons for these stocks to return to full supply.

In summary, the three key considerations going forward in each season are:

  • FOO and stock class demands for feed
  • Health and nutrition of pastures
  • Forage options and availability

For more information, contact Northern Tablelands Local Land Services Pasture Agronomist, Georgie Oakes on 0429 310 264.

Media contact: Annabelle Monie 0429 626 326, 02 6720 8317