There are many pasture species available when aiming to establish an improved pasture. Which species or combination of species is right for a particular situation depends on the intended use for the pasture and the environment.
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 and soil retention on less arable land.
- The most appropriate pasture species or mix - combining legumes and grasses can have advantages by allowing grasses to take advantage of the nitrogen that legumes fix in the soil.
- Whether the pasture is to be permanent (more than five years), medium (3-5 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.
- What kind of grazing regime is likely to be used.
- What fertiliser and management inputs are required to maximise pasture performance.
- What the most appropriate species, including new species, are 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 under particular circumstances eg bloat in cattle.
Pasture improvement is often an expensive exercise but can lay the foundation for a significant increase in production.
Before deciding to sow a new pasture, the following options should be considered and the need for re-sowing reassessed:
- Changing the target market.
- Changing the animal enterprise.
- Adjusting management calendar timing eg 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 a particular production system is the first step in maximising the potential of a pasture improvement investment.
- MLA's publications:
- Module 2: Pasture Growth and Module 3: Pasture utilisation from MLA's More Beef from Pastuers
- Module 7: Grow More Pasture and Module 8: Turn Pasture into Product from the Making More From Sheep manual
- Module 7: Nutrition from the Going into Goats: Profitable producers' best practice guide
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