Successful pasture establishment starts with planning.
Consideration needs to be given to the long and short term goals of the farm, when deficits and surpluses occur, feed quality issues, management requirements of particular pastures, and how new pastures will fit into or alter the current feed base.
Use the following simple checklist to help ensure that your pasture renewal program is successful.
1. Paddock Selection
- A paddock by paddock approach is best as no two paddocks are the same
- Begin with the paddock with the greatest difference between current and potential performance, as the marginal return on dollars invested is usually higher
- Select paddocks early, 1 - 2 years is required to properly prepare for new pastures
- Get a comprehensive soil test so that fertility levels can be improved if needed. Often pH, phosphorus and potassium levels need attention.
2. Paddock Preparation
- Control weeds and weed seed production in the 1 - 2 years prior to sowing a new pasture. Techniques available include spraygraze, spray-topping, spray-fallow and multiple fodder crops.
- Wait for autumn rain and then use a knockdown spray in order to control germinating weeds. Sowing can commence the 3-5 days later
- Ensure that cultivated paddocks are even, have a fine tilth and firm seed bed
- Paddocks that are being direct drilled should also be level and clear of excessive trash
- Sow seed at 10mm depth. Press wheels or a roller are often useful for improving the seed-soil contact and getting the pasture up quickly and evenly
- Use fertiliser at sowing. Ready access to N and P will ensure rapid and vigorous early growth. Never sow more than 15 kg N with the seed in a direct drill application. A good N:P ratio for starter fertilisers placed with or near the seed is 1:2. If required, use fertiliser blends containing trace elements such as molybdenum to promote healthy growth and function of legumes. When direct drilling, band the fertiliser to the side or below the seed where it is easily accessed by new roots.
4. Monitoring the Paddock after sowing
- Frequently monitor newly sown pastures for weed and insect pests. Controlling weeds early requires less chemical, is more effective, and often has less impact on the sown pasture. Insect pests can decimate an emerging pasture; prompt action prevents significant plant losses and loss of production.
5. First grazing
- First grazing should occur only once the plant has begun to tiller out and is at least 10cm high. Ensure plants are firmly anchored in the ground before grazing and avoid over-grazing or pugging damage. Avoid grazing moisture stressed new pastures
- Consider an application of N based fertiliser after the first grazing to promote quick recovery and encourage further tillering of the plants.