7 steps to successful pasture planning and improvement

 

Every farm and production system is unique. There are many factors that require consideration when deciding on what to plant as a pasture.

 

Follow the following 7 steps to succeed in your pasture planning and establishment. 

 

 

 

Your farm and production system is unique, therefore there are many factors that require consideration when deciding on what to plant as a pasture. To choose the correct variety or pasture mix for your system, you should consider the following:

 

Dairy, beef, sheep, horses, deer, alpaca and goats all require different forages and farming systems.

 

Another important thing to consider is 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 will need and get your seed ordered early to avoid delays at sowing. It is wise to know your enterprise needs when entering into the planning phase of your pasture renovation. The questions to answer include what you are going to do with the new pasture? Will it be used just for grazing or supplements such as hay or silage production, or both?

 

Mohaka hybrid ryegrass has a wide range of farm system fits including lamb and beef fattening enterprises.

 

Different pasture species require different soil types. Varieties 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.

 

Soil type can affect which pasture mix you use. Your soil type will also determine which companion legumes are planted in your pasture mix.

 

A soil test is recommended as pH level and nutrients are a large factor in the success of your pasture. 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 recommended for pasture establishment as it provides the soluble nutrients required. It is important to select acid tolerant species for acidic soils with high aluminium levels.

 

 

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. Regions with high rainfall and cool climates are historically suited to ryegrass.

 

The type of landscape needs to be considered when choosing a pasture. Steep land or north-facing slopes may require a more persistent species, while a wet swamp may be more suitable for a summer active tall fescue to utilise soil moisture.

 

If you are unsure about deciding your right species, our Seed Selector tool will help you to find the right options by selecting your rainfall and farm system requirements.  

 

If you are unsure about deciding your right species, our Seed Selector tool will help you to find the right options by selecting your rainfall and farm system requirements.  

 

 

TRY SEED SELECTOR
SPS Hillside Perennial Blend is suited for regions with 400+ mm rainfall.

Paddock preparation is one of the most important parts of a pasture resowing program. Weed control prior to planting is very important. A clean seed bed will enable seedlings to establish with less competition. To do this, spraying with a knockdown herbicide is recommended, then cultivation and then another herbicide spray may be required for the germinating weed bank before sowing. Spray grazing or spray topping are other useful tools to manage weeds prior to sowing. Summer cropping is an excellent tool to get a paddock suitable for perennial pasture sowing the following autumn.

Drilling Choice chicory into a well prepared seed bed at Flynn, Central Gippsland

Most pasture seed species are best sown at a depth of 1-2 cm due to their small seeded nature. Drilling is recommended to obtain strategic placement of seed and seed to soil contact for even germination. Rolling the paddock is recommended on light to medium soils.

 

Sowing rates of different species and type of area to be sown vary so please see specific varieties for sowing rates. Sowing rates in the DLF Seeds publications are based on drilling seed into a well prepared seed bed. Broadcasting, power harrows with seed boxes that spread the seed and other machines may require higher seeding rates.

 

 

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 being 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.

 

Special care needs to be taken when preparing to sow an endophyte free or novel endophyte ryegrass into a paddock previously in standard endophyte because the standard endophyte ryegrass may quickly re-establish in the paddock and cause problems. All existing ryegrass plants should be removed from the paddock (by spraying and/or ploughing) and old ryegrass seeds buried or germinated (following multiple spray applications or cropping) before planting novel endophyte ryegrasses. There are also management guidelines such as not feeding out standard endophyte ryegrass hay in nil or novel endophyte paddocks to prevent the re-establishment of standard endophytes.

 

Red Legged Earth Mites (RLEM) can cause significant damage to new pastures

 

Annual grass weeds such as barley grass and silver grass can be successfully controlled in established perennial pastures (perennial ryegrass, phalaris, tall fescue, cocksfoot and Ecotain® environmental plantain). Refer to product labels for rates, or talk to a DLF Seeds Sales Agronomist. Monitor your new pasture for weeds, and use appropriate herbicide management to control weeds. Remember that the number of trifoliate clover leaves is important in the timing of spraying of broadleaf weeds.

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. Plan ahead and plant for your future today.

 

Step 1. Identify species to fit your farming system

Step 2. Soil testing and fertility

Step 3. Match pasture species to your climate and topography

Step 4. Prepare a weed free seed bed

Step 5. Ensure correct planting depth at sowing

Step 6. Insect control and seed treatments

Step 7. Post emergent weed control

 

 

Find more about Seed Treatments
This pasture was damaged during establishment by cockchafers. Seed treatments could protect against some key insect pests

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