Managing pasture in wet conditions

Pugging damage can reduce pasture DM production by up to 35% if it is not fixed.
Severe pugging can kill pastures (see photo below).
Where pastures are killed, repairing damage is a race against time. New seed needs to be sown before weeds take over.



How to minimise pugging damage

There are several strategies available:

  • Draw up a wet weather management plan and make sure everyone shifting stock understands the plan, and
  • Graze paddocks you know are vulnerable to wet conditions (including new grass paddocks) early (e.g. autumn) in case things turn wet later
  • On:off graze - Remove cows from pasture after 2-4 hours grazing onto a stand off pad or sacrifice paddock (e.g. one going into crop). Sacrificing one paddock is better than damaging
  • Spread cows out at low stocking
  • Don’t worry about post-grazing residuals when it’s Concentrate on protecting your soils. Focus back on residuals when conditions are dry again.
  • Create laneways within paddocks which are being break-fed, to limit treading damage to smaller
  • Avoid grazing tetraploid pastures during heavy Diploid pastures are denser and more likely to persist through a pugging event.
  • Keep machinery off wet paddocks - feed out a couple of days in
  • If you have a long term problem with pugging, increase the drainage of problem paddocks.



Tips on restoring pugged pastures

Even with a good plan, the need to feed stock in wet weather means pasture damage can happen.

  • Restoring pastures after bad pugging damage is a race against time. If you don't get productive species back into the bare ground, fast growing spring weeds will quickly fill the gaps.
  • If used at the right time (see graph below), undersowing can be a useful tool for repairing damage.



  • In early spring, sow as soon as soil temperatures are above 6oC for annual or Italian ryegrass, or 8°C for perennial ryegrass. Sow seed at 10–15 kg/ha for thin pasture and 15-20 kg/ha for severe
  • For larger areas, mark damaged area(s) on a farm map, and give to the contractor to undersow (provided they are level enough, otherwise surface cultivate first).
  • Consider undersowing with an Italian ryegrass (e.g. Tabu). This will give quick DM growth, and is an ideal option where you plan to fully renovate the paddock within the next 6-18 months. Undersow with perennial ryegrass if you want the paddock to last longer (e.g. 3-4 years).
  • Where pugging is severe, consider full renovation, either through a summer crop or in irrigated areas via grass to grass in
  • For smaller bare gaps, g. gateways, you can oversow or broadcast grass seed. You’ll need a higher sowing rate, e.g. 30 kg/ha, because establishment is poorer than drilling.