Check your pasture potential

By Country News

After successive dry seasons, deciding which pastures to remove or retain in the crop rotation will be important for many farmers, according to Jeff McCormick from the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation at Charles Sturt University.

A lecturer in agronomy at the CSU School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences, Dr McCormick said the first step was assessing the productive potential of pastures.

‘‘Environmental stresses such as drought can significantly decrease the density of a lucerne stand, and after two dry springs it’s likely there’s been a reduction in the seedbank for annual legume species like subterranean clover,’’ Dr McCormick said.

‘‘As sowing time approaches, growers will be trying to determine how much pasture to sow as well as what management strategies can be used in existing pastures.’’

He said pasture removal should be for those pastures that had degraded during the past season and that were unlikely to be productive in the year ahead, and it was important to consider animal requirements for the year, including when that feed needed to be available for livestock.

‘‘There are a number of options to renovate pastures; they could be over-sown with subterranean clover or a cereal to increase forage production.

‘‘Alternatively, the pasture could be removed to sow an annual crop for production of grain, hay or silage.

‘‘Knowing the time of season when pasture growth will be most limiting will also help in choosing the most appropriate management strategy.

‘‘If dual-purpose crops are used extensively on-farm then livestock feed requirements could be met by these crops from May to mid-August, depending on the break of season.

‘‘It’s important that producers assess the pastures to understand the potential for growth and production to help them make informed decisions about sowing and management this season.’’