Winter grazing

Protecting our waterways while winter grazing
Good winter grazing practices can reduce run-off into waterways and also help with better soil productivity.

No matter what time of year, farmers with winter grazing should be thinking ahead to how they can minimize pasture damage and reduce run-off into waterways.

Here are a few low-cost and simple tips to protect soil structure and reduce leaching of nitrogen and phosphorous into waterways on farm.

Tips for improving winter grazing

  • Paddock selection for winter is crucial – ideally it’s best to choose paddocks away from waterways and wet areas prone to pugging to reduce the risk of sediment and nutrient runoff.
  • When planting the crop leave grass buffer strips around critical source areas, such as gullies and swales, where the run-off is originating and flowing from.
  • Have a good look at the landscape and ensure there’s larger buffers around the waterways. This can really help reduce sediment and nutrient loss into waterways.
  • Graze strategically by protecting any critical source areas. Save them for the ‘last bite’ of winter to help reduce run-off – if they even need to be grazed at all.
  • It’s also a good idea to back-fence stock off land that has already been grazed, to even further reduce run-off. Strategic grazing and careful management of critical source areas can reduce losses of sediment and phosphorous (P) by 80-90%.
  • Plant a cool tolerant catch crop, such as oats or rye, as soon as possible after grazing. This can soak up nutrients from the soil, rather than them being leached if the paddock is left fallow.
  • Prepare a winter grazing plan as part of your Farm Environment Plan to better manage nutrient loss from your current farming system. Get in touch with Environment Canterbury or your farm advisor if you need assistance.

Are you aware of the rules relating to winter grazing?

Environment Canterbury has implemented strict land use rules throughout Canterbury requiring farmers to manage a range of environmental issues, including those caused by winter grazing.

  • Keeping stock out of the beds of rivers and lakes Cattle and deer that are break-fed on winter feed crops, pigs and all dairy cows are not able to access the bed of a river, lake or wetland without a resource consent. Our rules do not allow farmers to cause pugging or sediment loss to water where there is a change in water quality or clarity, no matter what livestock is involved.
  • Nutrient rules require all farmers to implement good management practices on their farm. Some farmers require a farming land use consent and a Farm Environment Plan that needs to be regularly audited if their winter grazing area exceeds plan limits.
  • Discharges of sediment or drainage water. There are a number of good management practices that can be used to manage the risk of sediment discharge into waterways.
  • Find out what rules apply to your farm by visiting the farming rules page.

Additional information

Contact us

Call Customer Services on 0800 324 636 and they will put you in touch with one of our land management advisors for free advice or information on winter grazing.

We also recommend you talk to your industry representative on how to manage nutrients and develop your Farm Environment Plan.