Ten top tips for winter grazing on crops

11 July 2017

Winter grazing of crops is a key source of sediment, nutrient and bacterial loss into waterways from farms. Here are some simple steps you can take now to make a real difference.

1 – Exclude stock from waterways. Create an ungrazed buffer zone of crop between the livestock and the waterway. 3-5 metres is a good starting point, but this should increase with slope and instability of soil.

2 – Leave an ungrazed buffer zone around either side of Critical Source Areas (CSAs). These are parts of the paddock that can channel overland flow directly to waterways, like gullies, swales, very wet areas, spring heads, waterway crossings, stock camps and vehicle access routes.

3 – Graze paddocks strategically.

Graze paddocks strategically

On a sloping paddock, fence across the slope and start grazing at the top of the paddock, so the standing crop acts as a filter. Or, if there is a waterway present, start at the opposite end of the paddock.

4 – Make breaks “long and narrow”. Research shows that the crop will be utilised more efficiently by cattle.

Long narrow breaks

5 – Regularly backfence stock off grazed breaks to help minimise pugging damage and to reduce runoff risk.

6 – Place troughs and supplementary feed in a dry central part of the paddock well away from any waterways or CSAs.

7 – Look after your stock. Provide adequate feed, shelter and clean, fresh drinking water. Doing this will also limit stock movement and help reduce damage to crop and soil.

8 – Graze the buffer strips around CSAs when soil is not so wet and risk of loss has reduced. Graze quickly and lightly if you can.

9 – Plant a catch crop. Where soil conditions and farm management allow, consider planting a fast growing crop in spring such as greenfeed oats. It can make a dramatic difference to reducing nitrogen losses.

10 – Plan early. When choosing paddocks for next year’s winter feed crop, think about how you can improve your management of CSAs and waterways.

Want to know more?

AgResearch soil scientist Ross Monaghan discusses winter grazing on a B+LNZ podcast 

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