Tuesday, 08 March 2011 13:56

Making the most of a wet summer

Written by 
New pasture and most crops should be established immediately to maximise the growth potential during the next few months until the winter. New pasture and most crops should be established immediately to maximise the growth potential during the next few months until the winter.


As we head out of the wettest summer on record how do we capitalise on the good conditions and turn it into ongoing benefit for our business?


The key areas centre on maximizing pasture growth, establishing new pastures and winter crops early and planning our approach to the winter period.

The importance of having the correct pasture rotation length and achieving 3 leaf-stage is the most crucial in the autumn and winter period.

This is because we can build a large wedge of pasture and don’t have to worry about pastures that are going to seed and cause associated pasture quality issues.

Our demand for pasture from grazing animals is also higher than our pasture growth rates so we know confidently we can consume the extra pasture we grow.

Achieving the desired rotation for most farmers should be easier this year as we still have actively growing pasture and we generally have good supplement reserves.

The two key tools to achieving the desired rotation length are supplement reserves, particularly silage, and nitrogen fertilizer.

Silage should be used to extend the rotation to the correct length then nitrogen should be used to support strong growth rates.

Silage input should be adjusted relative to the impact on milk production per cow, as we want the extension of rotation length to be as smooth as possible. As with all changes in diet, cows will need time to adjust so be proactive with the amount of silage fed.

It is a general observation that most people underestimate how much silage they are offering cows, so bear this in mind.

The use of nitrogen in an autumn after a wet summer is quite important as we don’t see the usual amount of mineralisation of nitrogen when autumn rains come, so you may need to increase your rate of nitrogen to compensate for this, typically 30-40 kg/ha of Nitrogen will be sufficient.

Bear in mind other nutrients like potassium may well be limiting growth as well, though decisions about potassium need to be made on an individual farm basis.

The establishment of new pastures and winter crops is also crucial as we head into autumn.  It has become common practice to sow new pastures and crops relatively late. This has been largely driven by the late autumn breaks we have had over recent years.

Now that we are in March, new pasture and most crops should be established immediately to maximize the growth potential through the next few months until the winter.

Managed well, new pastures should be back into the grazing rotation well before the end of the season.

This makes a significant difference to your winter feed planning and management.

The importance of preparation and supporting new plants with the correct fertilizer will help maximize the pasture’s potential both in the short and long term, so don’t overlook this.

A product like DAP at 50-100 kg/ha at sowing helps new pastures get off to an excellent start by supplying phosphorus and nitrogen.

As we head into the autumn start thinking about your winter management plan, as it is looking likely that a wet winter is next on our list of seasons.

The effective use of pasture, forage crops, supplements and off farm grazing will require planning to ensure wet soils don’t limit our potential for the new season.

Gavin McClay is a dairy business consultant based in Victoria. He can be contacted on 0425 825 288, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or through his website: www.gavinmcclay.com.au


More from this category

Increased Euro dairy production no threat


THE MOVE to a more liberal market regime in European dairy will not pose a significant threat to the Australian industry, according to an international dairy specialist.

Northern NSW grass factory

UP ON the Northern Rivers of NSW – the top, eastern corner that abuts Queensland and the Gold Coast – they reckon Cory Crosthwaite is far and away the best grass grower around.

The Tweedside dairy’s 94ha, all sandy loam river flats apart from 8ha of red volcanic ‘hill’, produces more than 20,000kg of dry matter/ha a year, while pastures on your average dairy farm in the region do around 3500kgDM/ha/year. 

Effluent on pasture returns nutrients

THE RE-USE of second pond effluent back onto pasture will help return valuable nutrients to the soil, a six-year study has found.

The study at the DemoDAIRY research and demonstration farm at Terang tested a range of application rates of second pond effluent to pasture to determine how much can be safely applied.

It recommended that correct use of second pond effluent should be encouraged on dairy farms but found applying too much on the same land could have negative environmental impacts.

Fighting kikuyu invasion

A WEST Australia farmer is planning high sugar grass trials with the aim of holding back the kikuyu invasion of his dairy farm south of Perth.

Victor Rodwell, who milks 840 Holstein Friesians and crossbreds on a dairy platform of 250ha at Boyanup, 200km south of Perth, plans to sow more AberMagic high sugar ryegrass this autumn for its persistent and dense tiller and root growth, as well as its high nutritional value.

Change your rhythm to make lasting changes

I WAS recently informed that over 90% of what we do and how we do it is out of habit or routine and very little is spontaneous or based on the information on hand at the time.

Initially I wanted to challenge this suggestion but found that it is true in my life.

Summer rain can herald problems for livestock

THE VICTORIAN Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is advising livestock producers that while the recent rain could provide valuable green feed, they need to keep close watch on their stock to avoid possible health problems.

MANY FARM tracks are in need of serious maintenance after the wet conditions prevalent across most of Australia last year. Following are some practical tips that will hopefully help save time and money when the season permits some repair work.


The Stony Rises, near Colac, are aptly named.  While the soil is rich with nutrients and the rainfall consistently good, the land is disrupted by a vast number of basalt rocks caused by volcanic activity from thousands of years ago.

During the past month, I have received many calls regarding employment – the majority seeking clarification from people on whether they are employing or being employed correctly.

A new scanning device fitted to a four-wheel motorbike could revolutionise the way landholders   plan their attacks on red-headed cockchafers.


As we head out of the wettest summer on record how do we capitalise on the good conditions and turn it into ongoing benefit for our business?

WITH LAND prices of $19,000/hectare throughout Western Victoria, dairy farmers Mark and Kim Bayne were forced to think outside the square to get their own farm.

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated.\nBasic HTML code is allowed.

» Get social

When butter and chocolate collide

TWO New Zealand companies Lewis Road Creamery and Whittakers have teamed up to deliver what must be every dairy lover’s dream: chocolate butter.

» E-Newsletter

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required