Strong, plentiful and healthy is what we should be aiming for in Spring pastures. This is key to conserving feed for Summer, as well as maximising your profits.
If you’re amongst the lucky ones who received good Winter rains, then both your new and established pastures will benefit from the more favourable growing conditions of Spring (warmth and moisture).
During Spring, pastures enter the reproductive growth phase and on most farms, this growth will be the peak growth for the year.
The key goals for the pastoralist during Spring is to ensure that soils are functioning efficiently and that nutrient deficiencies are addressed, while addressing these issues in the most economical fashion.
What condition is your pasture in come Spring?
Higher rainfall throughout Winter can increase the leaching and lock-up of any previously applied water-soluble nutrient, which contributes to the nutrient deficiencies often experienced during Spring.
To paraphrase Liebig’s Law, it will not be the nutrient you have most of that determines how much pasture you grow, but the nutrient you have least of.
Leaching, lock-up and the subsequent nutrient deficiencies this contributes to are two of the reasons a BioAg program will avoid using water-soluble nutrient, especially as a source of capital P in pastures.
You should not tolerate this loss of fertiliser and the reduced production it leads to.
In Summer, when you are considering your options for capital P, take a look at the results of the Crookwell Pasture Fertiliser trial (2014-2018) which showed slow-release fertiliser applied every second year will match or better the production of water soluble options.
The colder temperatures of Winter also increase the mortality of beneficial microbes normally present in healthy soils, which has a negative effect on the processes that promote pasture growth such as nutrient cycling and conversion.
With the enormous growth potential for Spring pastures, these factors only limit that potential as the plant is struggling to produce sufficient quantities of the metabolites it needs to deliver this growth and development.
Benefits of dealing with Spring pasture issues now
Addressing both these issues now (soil health, and the plants nutrient requirements) gives us the best chance of growing more and healthier pasture.
- It increases the quality and quantity of grazed feed
- Stocking rates can be maintained or increased
- There is more and healthier conserved feed (silage and hay)
- Grazing, silage, and hay feed is more palatable and digestible
- It helps deliver feed for the coming Summer and Autumn, reducing the need to buy feed
So bearing these issues and goals in mind, here are our top 6 tips for growing Spring pastures.
Our top 6 tips for growing Spring pasture
1. Obtain advice specific to your needs
All of the BioAg team have formal qualifications in agriculture/agronomy as well as being Fertcare accredited to Level C, and are trained in giving advice designed to increase the fertility of your soils while working with available resources.
An important benefit of obtaining advice from a BioAg Area Manager is that they do not give the same prescription for every farm, and instead tailor programs and advice suited to your individual requirements.
2. Tissue test rather than soil test
Various micronutrients are important to pasture growth at this time of year, both for plant growth and grazing animal health.
Some of these e.g. copper, zinc, boron and molybdenum only appear in soils as trace elements.
Leaf tissue testing delivers a more accurate account of micronutrient levels than soil testing.
3. Apply a broad spectrum of nutrients and growth promoters (this is easier than it sounds)
In order to achieve growth, Spring pastures are attempting to synthesise a range of growth metabolites.
This process requires not only a range of nutrients and trace elements, but good and balanced plant health.
Balance & Grow at 2 L/Ha will deliver not only trace elements but also these metabolites.
In fact, the list of ingredients that Balance & Grow delivers to the plant is astounding:
As well as a range of ingredients to stimulate growth and balance the health of the plant:
- Amino acids
- Dormant beneficial microorganisms
- Growth promoters
4. Address nutrient requirements and deficiencies according to your pastures’ composition
The grass to legume ratio of your pasture will be an important factor in determining exactly what to apply.
If stocking rates are high, then a source of nitrogen will likely be required.
If your pasture contains more grasses than legumes, then foliar UAN (or possibly urea) would be an appropriate source of N.
In legume-based pastures however, too much applied N can hinder legume reproduction so UAN or urea is not recommended at this time.
Legume Based Pastures
- Balance & Grow (2 l/ha)
- CalNitSol (5 l/ha)
Grass Based Pastures
- Foliar UAN (15-20 l/ha) (or Urea)
- Balance & Grow (2 l/ha)
- CalNitSol (5 l/ha)
5. Use liquid N and Ca
Both calcium and nitrogen are important for stimulating and supporting the enormous growth potential for pastures in Spring.
Those who have used BioAg pasture programs might notice that CalNitSol is a new addition.
In the past calcium nitrate has often been prescribed as part of a Spring pasture program as the preferred source of Ca and N.
The down side of calcium nitrate is that it had to be dissolved on farm prior to being applied as a foliar.
To make the Spring foliar program easier for pastoralists, BioAg have released CalNitSol, which is a source of Ca and N in liquid form.
CalNitSol contains 10.3% N and 12.7% Ca on a w/v basis.
6. Use a program that is compatible and tank mixable
Balance & Grow, CalNitSol, UAN (or urea) all come in a liquid form so you don't need to do any dissolving on farm.
They are also all compatible when used together.
Life is easier when you can tank mix and apply in one application.
So that's our top 6 tips. We hope you find them useful.
Have you got any tips of your own that have proven themselves? Have you used our pasture programs before? How did it go? You can add comments below.
Remember our team are available if you have any questions.
Annual Pasture Growing Strategy
BioAg has combined all of its pasture best practices into one easy document Increase Grazing Pasture Production: BioAg Pastures for Sheep and Beef.
Here you will find advice on achieving maximum growth and feed quality for each of the key periods throughout the year.