Planning is key when it comes to winter grazing

Having a plan for winter grazing doesn’t need to be over-complicated – the key is having a plan in the first place.

That’s the view of Lee Bryant, a South Canterbury sharemilker, who believes farmers can’t go wrong doing the ‘simple things well’ and - most importantly - having a plan written down and shared with key farm staff well ahead of winter.  

Lee, who manages 1700 cows on 500 hectares at Ikawai, says he’s always been a stickler for being prepared.  

“It shouldn’t be a surprise to experience very wet weather over winter – so it’s about planning in advance for when this happens, rather than ‘if’.  

“Good winter grazing doesn’t need to be difficult – it’s doing what’s best for the animals, the soil and the environment - looking at the whole package together.  The key is to not make a mess!”

Lee is always looking for ways to further reduce run-off from his paddocks and made a few further tweaks to his 2019 plan after attending a winter grazing field day at his neighbor Dan Studholme’s property and talking with one of Environment Canterbury’s land management advisors.  

“This year I’ve left a really large grass buffer at the bottom of one of my big kale blocks, to help filter any run-off. I’ve also fenced off even more gullies – which aren’t planted or grazed at all – to reduce them getting muddy, and it’s better for the stock.” 

Here’s a few other tips from Lee:

  • Lighten up on the tractor use

Lee has used his winter grazing plan to ensure that tractor work - like setting up fencing breaks - is carried out ahead of the wetter months, to minimize impact on the soil.  He then sets up temporary fencing on foot.  

  • Keep your cows happy

According to Lee, keeping his cattle well-fed and calm reduces the amount they wander around the paddock seeking food, reducing impact and pugging.

  • Graze the southern slopes first

This winter, Lee grazed stock on his southern facing slopes first while the soil is dryer.  As winter has progressed, he has moved them onto the north-facing slopes and into the paddocks that have already been opened up. 

Free advice on best practice winter grazing

Free advice on best practice winter grazing is available from Environment Canterbury our winter grazing page on Canterburywater.farm.   Call Customer Services on 0800 324 636 and they will put you in touch with one of our land management advisors.