Free ‘sure-fire’ pasture improvement guide for NSW landholders

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Cattle grazing on summer pasture, Jamberoo Abbey, NSW.
Cattle grazing on summer pasture, Jamberoo Abbey, NSW.
Winam, Flickr CC

A comprehensive new guide to establishing perennial pasture, released by NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) on 11 October 2016, offers primary producers practical tips and strategies for improving feed supplies.

The new guide is timely, coinciding with positive signals from sheep and cattle markets following widespread recent rainfalls.

NSW DPI development officer Helen Burns said the guide will give producers “proven” tools and strategies that, if implemented, can help them grow more vigorous, productive pastures that deliver solid return on investment (ROI), now and into the future.

“Producers who successfully establish perennial pasture will achieve a strong return from species which can cope with environmental stress, weed and grazing pressure and have the potential to persist for more than 10 years,” Burns asserts.

“The trick is understanding the nature of perennial species, with an emphasis on forward planning and management – up to two years before sowing and during the first year of pasture growth.”

Perennial pasture: ryegrass at sunset.
Perennial pasture: ryegrass at sunset.
Darren Hillman, Flickr CC

What’s in the guide?

NSW DPI's hands-on guide, Temperate perennial pasture establishment guide: Steps to ensure success, builds on years of proven research, including outcomes from the DPI’s ProGraze® and Landscan® programs, and the results of recent studies.

Its authors have revisited the DPI’s Prime Pasture program checklist, and include clear guidelines regarding the planning, sowing and management of perennial pastures across New South Wales.

The new guide includes practical tips on:

  • paddock assessment;
  • species selection;
  • nutrition;
  • weed and pest management;
  • cover cropping; and
  • grazing management.

According to Burns, it takes a structured approach that she hopes will help producers identify the constraints that limit sustainable pasture establishment, and that need to be addressed on a “paddock by paddock basis” well in advance of sowing.

“We encourage producers to compare the costs and benefits of re-sowing paddocks with the renovation of existing pasture,” Burns says. “Fertiliser and grazing management strategies can successfully invigorate established pasture at a fraction of the cost of sowing new pasture.”

Adopting the 3As strategy

One of the challenges, says Burns, is that many perennial pasture species have slow-growing, weak seedlings that require careful management for optimal growth and yield.

“Weed management, adequate soil moisture and accurate seed placement will give these small-seeded plants the best opportunity to establish,” she says.

“It’s the basis of the ‘3As strategy’ developed by DPI’s Prime Pasture program: absolute weed control; adequate soil moisture at sowing; and accurate seed placement.”

Strip-grazing perennial pasture near Currawong, NSW.
Strip-grazing perennial pasture near Currawong, NSW.
CSKK, Flickr CC

Prograze® and Landscan®

Prograze®, an eight-week course on pasture management, is part of NSW DPI’s Profarm initiative.

NSW DPI’s Landscan® workshop series, developed for farmers, graziers and land managers, consists of “lectures, discussions and practical, in-paddock demonstrations”, conducted by NSW DPI extension agronomists, soil specialists and livestock officers and covering sustainable pasture management-related topics including:

  • reading landscapes;
  • soil types and sampling;
  • understanding soil tests and soil fertility;
  • soil degradation issues;
  • management strategies for production and sustainable land use;
  • assessing paddocks; and
  • deciding on priorities for property development and management.

The Landscan program helps landholders assess land capability, potential productivity and options for sustainable land-use via landscape indicators and soil tests, providing them with the skills they need “to evaluate their landscape’s natural resources [and] identify strengths and weaknesses, exclusions and limitations”.

Where can I get the new pasture establishment guide?

The Temperate perennial pasture establishment guide: Steps to ensure success is available for free online at NSW DPI’s website. 

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