Advances in pasture management for animal productivity and health

Advances in pasture management for animal productivity and health
Peer reviewed


A wide range of management techniques is available to enhance quantity and quality of forage supply to grazing animals throughout the annual production cycle. Within broad limits, dry matter (DM) production is relatively insensitive to management of defoliation frequency, severity and duration. However defoliation management has effects on feed quality which can be enhanced, in particular, by control of pasture growth in the spring through maintenance of relatively low average pasture masses. Treading damage can have significant immediate and ongoing effects on pasture production and farmers can use a range of management techniques to minimise these.
Fertiliser application practices have a potent influence on pasture production and seasonality of that production. Available soil nitrogen is the primary nutrient deficiency limiting production in New Zealand’s characteristically grass-dominant pastures. Nitrogen fertiliser usage has increased markedly in recent years, particularly to grow substantially greater amounts of forage during the cool season, and this trend looks set to continue. However, the use of nitrogen fertiliser has important environmental implications.
Pasture renewal and forage crop use has also increased in recent years. Care needs to be taken in conducting cost-benefit analyses, selecting the options that best meet the needs, and in establishment and subsequent management practices. Ryegrass (perennial and hybrids) and white clover remain the primary choice for permanent pasture renewal, the availability of safe endophytes having largely alleviated effects of endophyte toxicosis. Special-purpose mixtures are used, especially in dry environments. Italian ryegrasses, brassicas and chicory are common choices for forage crops. A range of management techniques can be used to alleviate deleterious effects of some forages, including ryegrass endophyte toxicosis, facial eczema, and toxins associated with Fusarium fungi. Generally these techniques are not totally effective. More research is required to increase our understanding of these disorders, and in order to develop more effective and reliable management practices.
KEY WORDS: Pastures, management, grazing, treading, fertiliser, renewal, forage crops, production, quality, endophyte toxicosis, fungal toxins

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