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New pasture and the first graze

New pasture and the first graze

New pasture and the first graze

Correct grazing management of newly sown pasture over the first 12 months post-sowing has significant long-term effects on its botanical composition and persistence. Therefore, timing the grazing and to the right level has a positive outcome.

A newly established conventionally sown or direct drilled pasture is ready to graze when it passes the pull test. This involves grasping the seedling and giving a firm pull. If the leaves break, rather than the roots pulling out, then the pasture is ready to graze.

Seedling plants are better anchored when sown into a well-consolidated seedbed or when direct drilled. For faster-establishing pastures such as ryegrass and white clover, this is about six to eight weeks or at about 10 cm in height. Slower-establishing pastures including tall fescue and clover may take over 10 weeks.

Plants should reach 10 to 12 cm before the first grazing. The initial grazing should be with lighter stock such as sheep or rising one-year cattle over a short time. The animals need to remove one-third to half the leaf area on offer or down to 1,200 to 1,500 kg of dry matter (DM) per ha (5 cm in height). Following this guideline for the first three to five grazings promotes clovers and herbs within the sward and it reduces damage caused by over-grazing and plugging.

The grazing management of recently oversown pastures is like that of other pastures with frequent rotational grazing recommended. An additional requirement is controlling the re-growth of the existing species to avoid failed establishment due to competition.

Grazing should start at a cover of about 1,300 kg of DM per ha and continue until the pasture mass is about 800 kg of DM per ha. Try not to set stock over sown clovers in the first spring, as preferential grazing removes them from the pasture sward.

To achieve a high clover content, allow clovers to flower and re-seed in the first season. This is especially important for annual clovers such as subclovers which must develop a seed bank in the first year following sowing to allow a successful establishment in the second and third years. This is difficult in a dairy system but works well with sheep.

For assistance planning a new pasture or pasture renewal programme, contact your local PGG Wrightson Technical Field Representative.

TIPS FOR THE FIRST GRAZE:

  • Light grazing encourages tillering of grass and branching of white clover. Graze when newly established plants cannot be easily pulled out, about six to ten weeks after sowing.
  • A well-timed first grazing prevents fast-establishing species, such as ryegrasses, shading out slower-establishing species such as clovers and herbs.
  • Weeds, especially annuals, are controlled or at least reduced by short sharp grazing of newly established pastures as they are more likely to be soft and palatable when young and immature.
  • Ensure cultivated soil is consolidated as this helps plant roots anchor and reduces pulling when being grazed, especially in the early stages of establishment.