Growing profit from the ground up

Newly-sown pastures: manage your investment wisely

With many autumn pastures either planted or ready to be planted, Blair McCormick, Product Development Manager Agricom provides a timely reminder that regular monitoring is essential, not only to check pasture establishment, but also to keep track of any insect pests and potential weed or nutrient deficiencies as the pasture gets underway.

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The most expensive pasture is the one that fails to establish properly. Some key points to consider when establishing and managing a new pasture include:

Fertiliser inputs

  • Bear in mind appropriate inputs. What upcoming fertiliser requirements will be needed after grazing and what fertiliser will be required to help the pasture species reach its production potential. Budgeting for future fertiliser applications in subsequent years and livestock aquisitions (to make use of the extra feed grown) is also worth carrying out. Taking on agistment stock can be a better option than capital expenditure on extra stock when prices are high.

Pest control

  • Insects can decimate newly-sown pastures. Look for insect pests regularly after sowing. Thorough checking every 2–3 days is recommended for the first 3–4 weeks.
  • In direct-drilled pastures, under moist conditions, slugs can be a problem. Slugs can be detected by placing wet paper under bags or boards at several sites throughout the paddock. A registered insecticide is available for use at or after sowing if slugs pose a significant threat. In some instances multiple applications can be required, depending on the insect population.
  • Both red legged earth mites (RLEM) and blue oat mites (BOM) hatch after the autumn break, especially when maximum day temperatures are below 20°C. These pests start producing eggs 6–8 weeks later. RLEM can significantly damage to new pastures in the first three months after sowing.

Weed control

  • Competition from annual grasses early on in the life of a pasture is one of the major causes of poor establishment. Monitor the pasture after germination and control broadleaf weeds and/or annual grass weeds where necessary. Note: Clover pastures need at least three leaves before applying a broadleaf herbicide. Check the recommended dosage on the label or talk to your local agronomist for further information.

Grazing management

  • Make sure grasses are 10–15cm tall and well anchored with sufficient soil moisture before stock start to graze a newly-sown pasture.
  • When grasses are 10–15 cm tall and actively growing, a quick grazing will enhance tillering and root development. Graze quickly down to 2.5cm, then rest — perennial grasses persist more when rested so rotational grazing is recommended.

Successful pasture establishment is about ongoing monitoring and management — but the return on your investment will be worth it. The most cost-effective feed is home-grown feed, so growing as much quality feed as quickly as you can not only benefits your animals, but also your bottom line.

For more information on pasture establishment and management:

Perennial pasture establishment (DEPI)

Eight steps to perennial pasture establishment (NSW DPI)