Strong healthy ryegrass plants will survive dry conditions better than those which are weak.
But the trick is you have to get them in good condition before the pressure comes on, and for perennial ryegrass, that means taking a bit of extra care with management during spring and early summer.
Setting up your pastures for summer survival is a win:win scenario – if drought or a summer dry does eventuate, you will be well prepared, and if it doesn’t, your pastures will be in great shape come autumn.
In the next few weeks perennial ryegrass plants become very vulnerable as they change from vegetative to reproductive growth, and back again.
Production of new tillers is highest before flowering during mid-spring, and again immediately post-flowering in early summer, and survival of these new daughter tillers is critical for persistence.
During this period pasture covers should be maintained at 1000-2500 kg DM/ha for sheep farms, and 1500-3000 kg DM/ha for dairy.
Ryegrass thrives under consistent management so if you can maintain this ideal grazing window, you’ll win from both better growth and feed quality.
Overgrazing (<1000 kg DM/ha on sheep; <1500 on dairy) can weaken pasture plants and make them more susceptible to stress; undergrazing (>2500 or 3000 kg DM/ha) tends to produce more open pastures with fewer tillers, making them more vulnerable to stress.
If late spring brings too much growth, you can maintain good grazing management by removing paddocks for crop; making hay or silage; mowing pasture pre or post grazing or buying extra stock.
If summer does turn dry, make sure you have a plan in place to avoid over-grazing, or at least limit it to certain parts of the farm to protect your most valuable pastures.
On-off grazing is a key tactic and since grazing duration can also affect persistence, don’t leave animals on the same pasture for more than 48 hours.