There are many pasture species available when aiming to establish an improved pasture. Which species or combination of species is right for the situation depends on the environment and the intended use for the pasture.
Selecting a pasture
When selecting the right pasture species or combination of species, important production considerations include:
- the intended pasture use – finishing animals, filling an identified feed gap or soil retention on less arable land
- the most appropriate pasture species or mix – combining legumes and grasses can be advantageous as the grasses benefit from the nitrogen legumes fix in the soil
- the timeframe for the pasture - is it to be permanent (more than five years), medium term (three to five years), short-term (two years or less) or forage (one year)
- whether the pasture is intended for fodder conservation
- whether the pasture will be dryland or irrigated
- the kind of grazing strategy likely to be used
- the fertiliser and management inputs required to maximise pasture performance
- the most appropriate species, including new species, for the property's particular environmental niche.
Environmental factors that need to be considered include:
- climate and season
- rainfall, rainfall distribution and seasonal variability
- soil conditions (type, texture, drainage, pH, salinity, water logging).
Animal health issues should also be considered as some pastures can present animal health problems such as bloat in cattle.
Pasture improvement can lay the foundation for a significant increase in production, but it often an expensive exercise.
Before deciding to sow a new pasture, alternate options for increasing productivity should be considered and the need for re-sowing reassessed. Options include:
- changing the target market
- changing the animal enterprise
- adjusting management calendar timing (e.g. changing lambing, calving or kidding dates)
- changing animal genetics – faster growing stock may reduce the length of time quality feed is needed.
Having committed to pasture improvement, selecting the right kind of pasture for the production system is the first step in maximising the potential of the investment.