Both farms were selected for the quality of their three-year-old pastures – the result of good on-going management before and after sowing.
The Sherriff’s winning paddock is on Mairoa Ash with a clay base on rolling to flat land sown with tetraploid ryegrass Halo AR37 and Kopu white clover sown at the recommended rate of 22kg/ha for grass and 4kg/ha for clover. The paddock was converted from brown-top predominant pasture in 2008 with five tonne/ha of lime applied to lift soil pH to 6.0.
Nitrogen (N), phosphate (P) and potassium (K) were spread as needed to lift optimal fertility levels and the establishment process took 10 months. The browntop was sprayed out with glyphosate herbicide and the area disked and power harrowed, harrowed, roller drilled and planted in a short rotation ryegrass that five months later was sprayed out and re-sown with a chicory crop.
After five months the chicory was power harrowed, seed rolled, sprayed out in early April and then roller drilled with perennial pasture that was weed sprayed for nodding thistles and willow weed.
The paddock’s first grazing was with either rising two-year-olds or dairy/beef calves followed by a light rate of effluent irrigation.
In August the paddock was in the normal dairy grazing round and received three rounds of urea from spring into early summer at a rate of 60-65kg/ha. The spring round was about 18 days, 25 days in summer and 35 days during autumn.
Residuals greater than 1700kg drymatter (DM)/ha were either topped or grazed with beef animals or carry-over cows to clean up.
In the second season the paddock was used as a silage paddock because of the contour and a light rate of effluent was applied after the silage cut. The farm’s pasture renewal began in the first year of conversion when 133ha of browntop cover was put into permanent ryegrass pastures.
Now the farm uses maize, chicory, and turnips as break crops before sowing into new grass.
The summer crops are to increase the safety of summer production, manage peak pasture growth, provide higher quality feed through the summer, and increases the ease of management in changing grazing round lengths.
Around 10% of pasture is selected in early spring for renewal based on pasture density and any winter damage, the new grasses chosen for a mix of heading dates with diploids used on the hill paddocks and tetraploids on the flat to rolling country.
All tillage and sowing is done with the farm’s own gear and staff and the first grazing is always with young stock.
Ali and Rob told the ‘best paddock’ field day that they have learned not to rush seedbed preparation and get it right for a good strike.
They add extra nutrients as required during establishment because new ryegrass cultivars are hungrier than old grass.
They don't mix tetraploids and diploids in the same paddock because cows tend to overgraze the tetraploid and leave behind the diploid.
They found April sowing too late for good establishment and a good grazing before winter and therefore sow as early as possible.
Another tip was to use a mix of grass seeding dates for easier pasture quality management around the farm.