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Farm advice: Wintering extension a window of opportunity

Tips from Dairy NZ on implementing good management practices for winter grazing

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As we all know, the Government has deferred the new winter grazing rules until May next year.

This extension is a window of opportunity for farmers to show we can voluntarily do a good job at implementing sector-agreed good management practice (GMP) for winter grazing. This is a chance to take ownership of our way forward.

Implementing good management practices this winter is essential, as they bring benefits for freshwater quality and animal welfare. There are a few things you can consider now to make this happen smoothly on your farm.

Cultivation

For next winter, we need to ensure our land is cultivated across slopes, leaving grass strips to trap sediment from the cultivated areas. However, if you have cultivated in a different way this year, there are ways to mitigate the effects now.

Firstly, identify the critical source areas and fence these off. Critical source areas are low-lying parts of the paddock, such as gullies, swales, or any area where run-off can accumulate.

Next, create crop buffers around the critical source areas and at the bottom of slopes. A crop buffer is a strip of fenced-off crop at least five metres wide that helps filter and slow the run-off from the crop paddock.

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Paddock set-up

Setting paddocks up strategically is important, including placing bales, portable troughs, and feeders on high ground to help reduce pugging. Easy access to water is also good for cows, reducing energy use walking to the trough.

Grazing options

When grazing during winter, there are a few different options to consider:

  • Graze towards critical source areas or water bodies to protect them from overland flow. Alternatively, leave a larger buffer strip and graze it last, during fine weather.
  • Graze from the top of the slope down to reduce overland flow by maintaining soil structure and allowing water to soak into undamaged soil.
  • If you don’t want to graze your animals downhill, graze across a slope with a buffer at the bottom.
  • Save breaks near hedges or higher areas for bad weather use.

Animal care

During winter, monitoring and assessing our animals’ behaviour is crucial. There are two things you should consider:

  • Are they getting enough rest?
  • What can you provide to enable them ample opportunity to lie and rest?

Some of you may have a paddock that naturally provided drier spots for animals to lie, but many farmers will need to change a paddock’s management to ensure cows are well cared for. 

If the weather starts getting wet or there’s an adverse weather event, use those breaks near hedges or higher ground you saved during grazing, to provide cows with suitable ground for lying.

Another option is to shift the break to twice a day to keep the stock moving to better ground.

These are all things we need to be considering, to help prepare us for when the new rules come into effect next year. n

More information is available at dairynz.co.nz/wintering.

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