Many farmers are wintering more stock this year than they planned to, for reasons beyond their control.
If this sounds like you, we have some suggestions that may help.
The first step is to update your winter feed budget to reflect the changing circumstances, if you haven’t already. This will clarify how much DM you need vs how much you have on hand.
Good support for this is available on-line - visit www.mpi.govt.nz and search ‘Getting support with your feed planning’ for more information. DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ also have excellent online calculators and feed budgeting tools.
Home-grown feed is your most cost-effective option, so here are key tips to make sure you’re getting the best out of what you have.
- For existing pastures, sticking to the 3 leaf theory of grazing management will maximise DM yield and quality. We have a good video explaining what this means in practice – click here to view. Ryegrass leaf production will slow as temperatures drop, but the principle still applies.
- Still on existing pastures – strategic N is a great tool to grow extra feed, because it can be applied across large areas to make a significant difference in DM production. Use about 30 kg N/ha, applied with at least 10 mm of rain, and be selective. The best response, which can be more than 10:1, comes from applying N to your fastest growing paddocks, with new pasture cultivars and good all-round soil fertility.
- For North Island pastures thinned out by the drought, consider under-sowing with fast growing ryegrass like Tabu+ or Shogun. Both will give extra feed over winter, and grow well in spring too. If you use both (in different paddocks), you’ll avoid having all your under-sown pastures running out simultaneously. Tabu+ typically lasts 1 year, and Shogun typically lasts 2 years.
- Winter crop is also an option, using oats or barley. These give a greater bulk of winter feed than ryegrass, but cropped paddocks will need to be re-sown in spring.
Above all, ask for help and advice from friends, neighbours, consultants, reps and other advisors. Like us, they’re only a phone call away.