Establishing new pasture following maize silage
Date: 06 May 2014
More and more farmers are successfully growing maize silage on-farm as part of their pasture renewal programme. With maize silage harvest just around the corner, it is time to start thinking about establishing a new pasture that is weed-free, productive and persistent. Like most things in farming, it will take good planning and management over the next 12 months to achieve this goal.
Firstly, it is important to start with a clean slate by ensuring there are no live weeds present when the new pasture is sown. As you start to periodically check your maize crop for maturity, take note of any weeds that are present at the base of the crop. If needed, spray these weeds with the appropriate herbicide immediately after harvest, or, allow the weeds to freshen-up and spray a week or so after harvest.
Now is the last chance to do any minor contouring work before sowing your new pasture. New pasture will establish better and will be easier to manage going forward if you have a smooth, well consolidated seed bed. However, only cultivate the paddock following harvest if necessary as you will lose more moisture from the soil and dry soils can be difficult to consolidate after sowing.
Selecting new pasture is arguably one of the most important steps in the whole process. This step is often described by farmers as a daunting task that can be confusing due to the vast range of endophyte and cultivar options available. The DairyNZ Forage Value Index is a good place to start when looking at selecting new perennial ryegrass cultivars. www.dairynzfvi.co.nz has useful information on how ryegrass cultivars are performing and persisting in your region. Your local seed retailer will be another very valuable source of information as to what has been performing and persisting well with other similar farms in your region. When sitting down with your seed retailer to plan what you will sow, remember to select the endophyte you need first, then select the most suitable cultivar with that endophyte. For most farmers in the North Island the endophyte will have the largest impact on the persistence and future productivity of your new pasture.
Once the paddock is weed-free, level, firm and ready for sowing, there are many different methods and machines for sowing new pasture. Talk to your local contractor as they will know which will work best for your paddock and what you are sowing. Remember to try and sow into a soil that has some moisture in it or when there is rain forecast soon after sowing for best establishment results. Monitor the paddock for weeds during establishment and make sure that these are controlled if necessary.
Following initial establishment, good grazing management along with regular nitrogen application will ensure that you have a weed-free, productive and persistent new pasture following your maize silage crop.