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Now is the time to set up pastures for winter and spring.

While seasonal conditions have been mild and many areas have had a break at the beginning of May, maximising winter feed on offer is still the key to good animal performance.

Most areas ended up reasonably bare at the autumn break – ideal conditions for broadleaf weeds such as capeweed, erodium, etc. Early removal of these weeds will allow more desirable species to make a greater contribution to quality feed into spring.

The other ‘weed’ that has a huge impact on annual performance after the middle of spring is silver grass. It’s feed quality declines rapidly as it runs to head.

If you have a choice of weed control, take out the broadleaves over early-mid winter and the silver grass in late winter.  Contrary to some opinions, silver grass is good feed when it is vegetative.

Herbicide recommendations and rates vary with the weed spectrum, the stage of growth of the weed and the pasture, so seek advice to use wisely in your system.

Giberellic acid at 8 – 20 gm/ha is a very cost effective means of boosting growth. Giberellic acid works best on phalaris pastures, but other pastures can respond as well.  The average increase in dry matter is around 500 kg / ha within three weeks.

Grazing management also plays a part in lifting winter production.  Pasture growth accelerates once feed on offer reaches 2-3 centimetres. Holding stock off until this level is reached will enhance pasture growth.  While this might mean extra feeding early in the season, less feeding will be required under this strategy rather than grazing the paddock out and having to supplement in the middle of winter.

If you are grazing paddocks, moving stock after four days will also enhance regrowth.

For further information on maximising pastures at this time and reviewing plans for the future, contact please contact one of  Meridian Ag’s pasture agronomy advisors on 03 5341 6100.

Article by Jim Shovelton