The management of a newly sown pasture during the first twelve months post-sowing will have significant long-term effects on botanical composition and persistence. To develop the ‘ideal’ pasture, here’s how you can graze and take care of it.
Here you can find information on new pastures, newly sown pastures, under-sown pastures, and a few tips around weed control. But when it comes to any of the above, management of any new pasture should:
- Encourage tillering of grasses and branching of white clover by grazing.
- Prevent fast-establishing species such as ryegrass shading out slower-establishing species such as clovers and herbs.
- Control weeds, particularly annual weeds.
- Consolidate cultivated soil.
- NOT be used to make silage or hay in the first one to two years if clover/herbs are included in the pasture mix.
Managing conventionally sown or direct-drilled pasture
A newly established pasture is ready to graze when it passes the ‘pull-test’. This involves grasping the seedling and giving a firm pull. If the leaves break - rather than the roots pulling out - then the pasture is ready to graze.
Time to first grazing depends on time of sowing, seedbed consolidation/firmness and the plant species used. But seedling plants will be better anchored when sown into a well consolidated seedbed or when direct drilled. For faster establishing pastures (e.g. ryegrass/white clover) this is about six to eight weeks (or about 10cm in height), in comparison to slower establishing pastures (e.g. tall fescue/clover) which may take over 10 weeks.
Plants should reach 10-12cm before the first grazing, and the initial grazings should be with lighter stock (e.g. sheep or rising one year cattle) over a short period of time; removing one-third to half the leaf area on offer or down to 1200-1500kg DM/ha (5cm height).
Following this management for the first 3-5 grazings will promote clovers and herbs within the sward and reduce damage caused by over-grazing and pugging.
Managing newly undersown pasture
Grazing newly undersown pastures can be difficult, as larger established plants may shade out the undersown seedlings. Ideally wait until the undersown grass has passed the ‘pull-test’ to ensure plants are well anchored before grazing. If there’s a risk of undersown seedlings being shaded out, some paddocks may require an early graze before the undersown seedlings have passed the test.
A light nip off (ensuring the newly sown grass isn’t grazed hard) will allow sunlight into the base of the sward; encouraging tillering and a strong establishment of the undersown seedlings.
Hold off light applications of nitrogen until plants pass the ‘pull-test’ and the first graze is complete, as this will further increase the rate of tillering of seedlings plants and ensure the undersowing pasture is well set up for winter/spring.
For Superstrike treated seed, remember not to graze until the 21-day grazing withholding period has passed.
Short, sharp grazing of newly establishing pasture eliminates many weeds, as they are more likely to be palatable when they are young and actively growing.
The key to weed control with herbicides is identifying which weeds are present and applying the appropriate herbicide, without affecting the newly establishing pastures.
Broadleaf weeds can be controlled with clover-friendly herbicides when the clover has a minimum of two trifoliate leaves. However, if herbs are present in the pasture mix, alternative herbicides will need to be used. If you are unsure about what weeds are present or which herbicide to use, seek expert advice as incorrect application can be costly.
Newly sown pastures benefit from early and light applications of nitrogen (25kg N/ha), from two to three weeks after emergence and post-grazing (watch nitrate levels before grazing). Regular, subsequent applications of fertiliser based on herbage and soil test results, as well as the amount of feed harvested from the pasture, will improve the persistence and performance of new pasture. Consult with a fertiliser representative for specific recommendations.
Like raising young stock, new pastures require careful management in the first year of their establishment to ensure maximum ongoing performance.
- Lightly graze once establishing plants cannot be pulled out easily, usually about 6-10 weeks after sowing.
- Ideally, use the lightest stock class available to minimise pulling or pugging damage
- Short sharp grazings of newly established pasture eliminates many weeds.
- Avoid using new pastures for conserved feeds in the first one to two years.
- Newly sown pastures benefit from early applications of nitrogen.