Getting started on pasture renovation

By Dairy News

HOME-GROWN FEED on a dairy farm is most often the lowest-cost feed source.

Repairing run-down and severely drought-affected dairy pastures is a high priority, but can be an expensive process.

Planning your renovation program

Start by assessing and prioritising paddocks and in some cases parts of paddocks that will benefit from resowing or full renovation.

These may include:

  • Higher fertility areas that will respond quickly with a simple resowing and start contributing to the grazing rotation. These may be the highest priority.
  • Mid-range soil fertility areas that will require more preparation time and fertiliser/effluent cost but give a good response for this winter.
  • Run-down pastures — perhaps regular silage/hay paddocks that will respond well to renovation as well as the addition of strategic fertiliser to support grazing early and production of multiple fodder cuts later in the year.
  • Farm areas that have not performed very well for years, and require time consuming and costly renovation. These may be a lower priority and may need short-term species sown before sowing back to perennial grasses, for example an annual rye-grass followed by a fodder crop next summer?

Test soil samples from strategic areas on the farm if this has not been done in the past three years.

The results will help prioritise the paddocks to resow first, determine program and application rates of base and maintenance phosphorus, potassium and sulphur. Contact your agronomist for further information.

The workload required and costs of the renovation program will assist in deciding what paddocks and how many paddocks can be renovated.

Ensure that contractors are booked in advance and that the budget for the program includes soil testing, fertiliser, seed, contractors and extra labour if required.

Species selection and purchasing seed Secure your seed early.

Pastures have been severely impacted in many dairying regions hence the demand for seed in autumn is expected to be high.

Choose pasture and crop species appropriate to your rainfall, soil type and farming practices.

The most commonly sown pasture species in dairying regions are rye-grasses. Other species options include fescue, cocksfoot, lucerne and winter cereals.

Contact an agronomist in your area to seek information on species and varieties that perform well under the conditions in your district.

If insects are a potential threat to your newly sown pastures, consider combining techniques that might help improve the establishment of your pasture and/or crop.

Seed treatments can provide protection against insect attack during establishment. Consider using seed with endophyte for protection against insects if sowing rye-grass or fescue pastures.

Further information is available from the Dairy Australia website at