Top 5 points for pasture planning

Your property and production system is unique, therefore there are many factors that require consideration when deciding on what to plant as a pasture. We have outlined our top five points to get you started.
Pasture Establishment | AusWest & Stephen Pasture Seeds
SPS Signature Range Haymaker 700 (ryegrass) establishing well in a prepared seed bed with timely insect sprays applied.
Every farm is different, prioritising importance on feed at different times of the year. Your farming system may be different to your neighbours, meaning you may need a slightly different pasture mix. Equally important is the type of animal you’re running or whether you want to use the pasture as a break crop between cropping cycles or for hay/silage production. Discuss with your trusted advisors the type of pasture species that will have the best impact on the profitability of your farm, plan what you’ll need and get your seed ordered early to avoid delays at sowing. It is a good idea to know your enterprise needs when entering into the planning phase of your pasture renovation. At the end of the day what are you going to do with the new pasture? Will it be used just for grazing or supplements like hay or silage production, or both?
Paddocks within a farm can differ in fertility depending on cropping history, fertiliser history and soil type. Soil type can affect which pasture mix you use. Species like cocksfoot and lucerne do not like waterlogged soils, especially in winter whereas tall fescue and perennial ryegrass are much more tolerant and will perform better in these environments. Your soil type will also determine which companion legumes are planted in your pasture mix.

A soil test will show you important aspects such as pH, phosphate, potassium, sulphur and nitrogen, enabling you to make an informed decision for fertiliser to be applied either as a corrective measure before planting or as starter fertiliser required at planting. If your pH is low you may need to apply lime or gypsum before cultivating. Starter fertiliser drilled at sowing, such as DAP, is highly recommend for pasture establishment as it provides the soluble nutrients required.

Climate is one of the most important factors in determining what species will grow and survive on your farm. Annual rainfall and its distribution will affect what species fit. For example in a low rainfall, true summer dry environment Hispanic cocksfoot or Mediterranean tall fescue will fit as they are protected by their summer dormancy traits. Whereas in low rainfall, summer wet environments, continental tall fescues and summer active cocksfoot will have a better fit. Temperature will also influence the species planted as some species have better heat tolerance than others, which will add to their persistence. Conversely those with great heat tolerance can often have lower winter growth rates.

Temperate pasture species are typically small seeded therefore they need to be sown at a depth of 10-25 mm. Burying seed too deep can result in a poor germination as the seed uses all of its reserves to get to the surface, resulting in poor establishment vigour. Seed sown too shallow can be exposed to drying out, heat or bird damage so it is important to sow the seed at the correct depth.

A seed drill is recommended to get good seed placement and many drills can sow fertiliser at the same time. Uniform planting depth with a drill results in more uniform establishment. If soils are light/medium they should be rolled after planting to aid in seed to soil contact, if there is too much air surrounding the seed it will not be able to absorb moisture. A trash and clod free seed bed can also mean more chances of success with pre-emergence herbicides or barrier insecticides.

Insects at establishment can have a detrimental effect on new pastures. Red legged earth mite (RLEM) and slugs are some of the most common issues when establishing a new pasture. Being proactive is better than reactive, so best practice is to use an insecticide at spray out and to use slug bait if direct drilling. Seed treatment is the next form of protection as they provide protection for the first four to six weeks after sowing. Kickstart™ is a seed treatment option providing insect control.

Weed control prior to planting is very important. A clean seed bed will enable seedlings to establish with less competition. Post emergence weed control may also be necessary – discuss this at the time with your rural retailer or agronomist.

It is important not to skip any of these steps in a well-planned pasture improvement plan. Success comes from good planning in all facets of your pasture.

  • Identify what species will fit your farming system
  • Soil test the paddock and plan the fertiliser requirements for your pasture
  • Take your climate into consideration.
  • Prepare your seed bed
  • Ensure correct planting depth
  • Control weeds prior to planting
  • Seed treatments and insecticides
  • Post emergent weed control
Cockchafer damage | AusWest & Stephen Pasture Seeds
This pasture was damaged during establishment by cockchafers.

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