Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Canty farmers score well on paddock prep

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Aerial inspection shows good management for winter grazing.
Canterbury farmers have been applauded for their on-farm management, which is set to minimise the environmental risks that come with winter grazing.
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Canterbury farmers have come up trumps for their paddock preparation, ensuring strategic winter grazing that will minimise environmental risks.

Information from aerial views has given Environment Canterbury confidence that the region’s farmers have adopted good management practices when setting up their wintering paddocks to minimise the environmental risks that come with winter grazing. 

In early May, ECan conducted two flights, one in the Ashburton district and one in Waimakariri, North Canterbury, to observe how paddocks had been prepared for the upcoming winter grazing season.

Two ECan field staff were joined by an industry representative on each flight. 

They looked for signs that appropriate paddocks had been selected and that critical source areas and waterways were being well protected.

Principal farm systems adviser Sarah Heddell said results from the flights in May were largely pleasing, with no locations of serious concern observed.

“Our team saw good buffer setbacks, especially in foothill areas, and evidence that most farmers had selected paddocks carefully to avoid winter grazing in areas with more critical source areas,” Heddell said.

“Our field staff have followed up with farmers who have set up very well, as well as others where we observed minimal setbacks from critical source areas, giving them advice on making sure they follow a robust winter grazing plan that will ensure good environmental outcomes once stock are introduced over winter.”

ECan will be undertaking two more flights over winter to observe winter grazing practices in action.

Like the flights that took place in early May, the winter flights will take place in a fixed-wing aircraft over the Waimakariri and Ashburton regions.

Heddell said these flights will observe how farmers are putting good grazing practices into play and ensuring winter grazing management plans are being followed.

“We’ve seen how people have set up their paddocks for good winter grazing, so with these next flights, we’re looking for practice in action,” Heddell said.

“This includes things like back fencing being used, portable and well-spaced water troughs and feeders to reduce the movement of animals and damage to soils, as well as evidence of strategic grazing, like grazing from the top end of paddocks towards waterways.

“People also need to ensure they have a wet weather plan in place to minimise adverse environmental impacts during extended wet periods.”

Heddell advised farmers to document tactics.

“All the environmental risks you have identified should be documented in your winter grazing management plan. 

“It’s useful to keep notes on how you carried out your plan, as well as any changes you made.”

She said farmers should also plan to sow a cool-weather-tolerant follow-up crop, such as oats or rye, as soon as possible after grazing. 

“This can soak up nutrients that would otherwise be leached if the paddock is left fallow.”

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