The ‘spring flush’ in ryegrass pastures occurs when soil water is readily available and temperatures reach their optimum range for growth. It is a production peak that growers want to maximise, because it really is a ‘once a year’ opportunity.
Transitioning from winter into spring is a time when producers should be liaising with their adviser and paying close attention to soil fertility. It’s when pasture growth is high, demand for nitrogen and potassium is high and soil reserves are often low. Nutrient mineralisation is slow in cold winter soils and come spring, autumn fertiliser applications are often depleted. Timely fertiliser application can help lift pastures out of winter faster. Make sure you have the right nutrition there to drive your spring pastures!
Spring management is about maximising both pasture and animal production, and the juggling act required to ensure the highest quality forage goes down the throat, or into the pit or bale.
Aim to maximise pasture utilisation, quality and regrowth by grazing before dry matter (DM) production reaches 3000kg/ha and taking livestock out when it’s eaten down to 1500kg DM/ha residual. This does require good management and attention to detail, but has the added benefit of helping to manage fungal diseases like rust. Spring foliar diseases can likewise be managed with cutting and planting resistant varieties.
Of course, it’s unlikely you’ll ever have enough stock to have the perfect grazing regime in every paddock and pasture utilisation and quality is certainly bolstered with effective fodder conservation. Here, it pays to be flexible. Feed availability and growth can change rapidly, so constant monitoring is required. You’ll want to adjust the ratio of grazing area to fodder conservation area, to account for variable growth rates. While every season is different and each paddock is different one thing is clear, identifying your fodder conservation areas early enables you more time to take the appropriate action like booking contractors well in advance. If you’re planning to cut and carry more fodder from the paddock, you’ll need to up your fertiliser budget, because you’re also exporting more nutrients than you would in a grazing system.
Growers are getting good results with pre-graze mowing. This is a great option to increase animal daily feed intake, and also with managing a feed surplus.
Lastly, when deciding on which paddocks to graze or conserve, producers should consider the next phase for that paddock i.e. allowing some over-sown kikuyu to come away early, or what will be the timeliness of next crop.