Pasture Pieces

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Pasture Information from DPI

Soil testing for sowing pastures in spring – you should complete this sampling over the next few weeks. This will give time for the results to be acted on and apply any capital applications of fertiliser or lime prior to sowing.  Soil sampling equipment is available for loan from DPI Wangaratta. 

Red Legged Earth Mite (RLEM) – be vigilant in checking your pastures for this pest. Did you have a problem with RLEM last spring ? If so, did you complete any RLEM control in spring ? If you answered YES followed by NO there is a high likelihood that RLEM diapause eggs have survived the summer and will hatch in your pastures this autumn.

Lucerne – remember the interaction of stocking rate, period of rotational grazing and seasonal conditions will determine the appropriate grazing management. Has your grazing management over the last few months of the drought led to sheep digging at the crown to chew at the taproot ? This over-grazing can cause permanent damage to the stand. It is ideal to allow lucerne to flower in autumn prior to frosts and the onset of its dormancy period to allow root reserves to increase which will improve its persistence.  

Phalaris – the recent rains and lower soil temperature should have broken the dormancy characteristic of the basal buds in this perennial species. These basal buds, which would have developed during the proceeding October – December period, provide this species with drought tolerance. This characteristic of phalaris should enable quicker pasture growth than annual grass species after an autumn break.

Just a reminder that phalaris contains alkaloids which can occasionally cause toxicity problems in livestock. The most common condition is referred to as phalaris poisoning which is more prevalent in sheep than cattle. This condition is most likely to occur in autumn / winter.

Cocksfoot – the characteristic of this perennial species producing leaf growth in response to summer rains can obviously be very beneficial in livestock enterprises. However, if you did get summer rains did you also have the problem of livestock pulling cocksfoot plants out of the ground ?  This problem is caused by the plant utilising its root reserves to produce leaf growth. As these root reserves are depleted there is an increasing risk that the plant will not be sufficiently anchored to the ground. The way to minimise this problem is to incorporate recovery periods for the pasture while grazing during summer – in other words do not set stock. This period allows both leaf and root growth to recover from grazing.

Annual grass species (eg: ryegrass, barley grass, silver grass) – the drought conditions are likely to have reduced the carry-over seed of these species within paddocks due to over-grazing (especially sheep), low level of ground cover and wind / water erosion. Obviously less seed reserves will mean a reduced annual grass component in the pasture sward this year.

Subterranean Clover – the burr burial characteristic of this species will have provided it with far greater protection when compared to annual grass species from the effects of the drought. The lack of groundcover and therefore less protection from the heat will have broken down the hard - seed characteristic and produce a higher percentage of seeds germinating from the autumn rains. This should result in a higher than normal sub clover component in the pasture sward.    

Broadleaf weeds (eg: Capeweed, Erodium, Paterson Curse) – unfortunately there is likely to be relatively high populations of these species in pastures this year. It should be a high priority to assess the percentage of these weed species in your pastures. It will be more effective and cheaper to complete chemical control on these species earlier than later in the season.