This month Al and Juddy discuss the science behind seed mixes. They tackle how seed and plant characteristics, environment, and grazing management affect the balance of plants in a pasture.
“One thing I would always encourage you to do is be fully aware of what plant species you’re bringing into your landscape and actually know them, because making the mix is quite an important thing”
Juddy Well, hello, Alister, back doing podcasts. What are we going to learn about today?
Allister Glenn I think it's a pretty cool topic in a way, because it's going to bring a number of our previous podcasts together, and the topic is creating and delivering pasture mixes to your farm system. So, what we're going to go through today is looking at a number of different seed characteristics. So, we've carried a number of topics through from previous podcasts regarding different species, ryegrasses, clovers, herbs, and we're going to work out how to bring this together in a functional way.
Juddy So probably by the end of it will be able to answer the question is there actually the perfect seed mix?
Allister And that's right, because at the moment it's still a very confusing world because you've got to ask yourself lots and lots of questions to actually tease apart what may be the perfect seed mix for you.
Juddy So let's start off with some seed characteristics when we're thinking about putting these seed mixes together. What are the things we need to know about the seed that we're actually going to be putting in these mixes?
Allister Well, the first characteristic is very probably a very dominant one, and that is seed size. So that's the number of seeds per kg, for example.
Juddy And that's probably because when we put a seed mix together, it's largely based around kilograms of seed going in the ground.
Allister Per unit area. And in most cases we'll be dealing in hectares, there'll be people listening and working in pounds. We're focusing on cages per hectare as a metric for sowing rates.
Juddy Let's keep it metric here. So, seed sizes are really important when we're thinking about these pasture mixes, what sort of variation have we got in seed size, for example, you know, what's what do we what's a big seed and what's a small seed?
Allister Well, big seed. And again, some of the actual characteristics of seed is that you have your primary energy source and embryo type component of the seed, which is where the plant comes from, and the cotyledon and the root starts developing from. But some seeds have quite a large outer layer, or I suppose you call it a shell or a husk, and some of them can't be separated in seed processing. And so I'll use the example of prairie grass as a really, really good example. Prairie grass has about 90,000 seeds per kg, but the actual size of the energy source within a prairie grass seed is no different really to a ryegrass plant. And a diploid perennial ryegrass would have about 500,000 seeds per kg. When I started my job, it was down in Southland. It was Southland farmers. I think it might have been one of the old guys said what they used to do when a young staff member used to join the team and the agronomy side of the job. They used to get them to count Timothy seed and Timothy sits at about two and a half million seeds per kg. So, it doesn't take that young person long to recognise that they're taking the mickey. And it was a bit of a bit of a joke. But again, Timothy is a very small seed and so you've got two things going on. You've got the size of the seed, the energy sources within the seed, the bulk density that the seed comes together with and their potency is quite a big deal. As I said, with the prairie grass, it's quite a bulky seed. The other one that's a little bit weird is cocksfoot,it’ss about a million seeds per kg. However, a cocksfoot plant’s seed is really fluffy, and because of that the bulk density is really weird. So when people get a 25 kg bag of white clover, it's quite a small bag because white clover fits right down. And it's about the same as, I'll just look this up because it's been a while. It's like 1.4 million seeds per kg and yet it's in a really quite a small bag.
Juddy So yes, it's probably related to the fact that you've got these small essentially round seeds.
Allister Yeah, they all pack in.
Juddy And when they go into a bag, they fit in quite a small space, whereas those, those prairie grass, they are very fluffy and so they take up.
Allister They're fluffy, bulky.
Juddy Very bulky.
Allister Lots of air around them.
Juddy And so you've got a very large bag to get the same weight.
Allister Cocksfoot particularly cocksfoot is a really big bag relative to its amount of seed that's in it.
Juddy And so we've got the size, so we need to be mindful about the size of the seed. What else do we need to be mindful in terms of making these seed mixes from a seed characteristic point of view.
Allister Well, remember, what I was just saying is that don't get caught up too much in the actual size or the bulk density. It's really quite a regular, you know, about the size of the energy source. So that seed really defines the potential to get out of the ground and prairie grass it's just a sort of a call out where prairie grass is a really good example. It looks like an oat in size, but if you buried it to three centimetres like an oat, it wouldn't come up because its energy size is not much different to a ryegrass. So our typical sowing depths we will come back into later when we start to tease apart the sort of establishment elements of these mixes. But most of our pastures that we're talking about in general pasture terms like to be sown between 5 millimetres and 20 millimetres. So yeah, that sort of defines how much energy they have to get out of the ground.
Juddy Yeah so that getting out you could describe it as vigour. So you've got seed size, you've got vigour. So that's another important part in terms of that seed characteristic. What's another, probably the final one around development, why is it important when we're putting together pasture mixes?
Allister Yes because when you add those two things together and then you add other things together, such as the time of year, the temperature and moisture profiles, but definitely the daytime and air temperature being, you know, you're sowing at. Different species have considerably different traits for development. And what you tend to find is that some of the grass species, particularly ryegrass, are very capable of continuing to grow and develop at relatively low temperatures. And that's really positive for autumn sowing when you're going into a declining temperature scenario. But also in spring, when you've got an increasing temperature, you often sow quite early and so can be still quite cold over the actual germination and development phase before it starts to heat up. And you so early, relatively speaking, in spring, because the very next thing to happen as you go into summer and you get hot and dry and if your pasture is not well developed, you're going to risk losing it.
Juddy That's a really good segue way into what I think is a really important part of this. And that is, what we sow is always what we get from a species point of view. And you've mentioned that there are some environmental impacts here. So if we've got all these different pasture species in a mix, are we always going to see those in the same proportion as what we sow with them?
Allister Yeah, that's a great question because it's all about expectation and I suppose I'm quite big on developing an expectation. You can do anything, and you can create anything if you understand the principles of the seeds you're putting in the mixtures. And so there are only a very few rules, but most of them are set by the person who needs the mix on their farm. And so you can, you can so low rates and get a certain outcome. You can so high rates and get another outcome. But you've overlaid a couple of big principles. One is ecology and that is most landscapes end up with about 66% of all the area in a grass species, which leaves the remaining 33-34% as space for other things. Now, this is not at the start, this is at year two or year three. So with young pastures, you have a glory phase which is a, it's a process to an ecological stable point. So we're farming for a couple of purposes. We farm to create feed supplies. We farm to create a systems fit. For example, young pasture can truly be perceived as a finishing sward. And so we have an artificial state for 12 to 18 months where it could actually be of an extremely high quality components. However, once you create a mix that is designed to be so-called perennial, that is not the final point. The final point is at year three and beyond. And so we use the knowledge that you can manipulate the start to create, for example, feed waves. And we use our knowledge at the start to create and manipulate the quality and style of the pasture for 18 months. And then we need to be aware that after 18 months it becomes a standardised ecological pasture.
Juddy And that's a really good point because I think where we were putting these pasta mixes together, particularly when we've got a number of different species. What we see is sometimes all or most of those species contribute to the two the first 12 months say. But those pastures are very transitional and you will get to a point where you get to a stable ecological balance.
Juddy And I think that's the really important bit that you can put anything you like in but over time, these will transition to that stability. And that stability, I think, from what I can see, does depend a little bit on the environment. So it's what pastures, what plants in that mix are most at home, you know, are most successful. They will make up a large proportion of that mix. So I think if even though we may want a particular species in that mix, for some reason it might be from an animal performance point of view. The difficulty is, if that's not something ecologically that outfits, even though you want it there, it may not actually be there.
Allister And I think I think that's where we sort of like I say, there are no you know, you can actually do anything with pasture mixes. And that's possibly why, you know, sometimes people get so confused and so much of it is about asking the right questions of what you're wanting to achieve, both from a feed supply, your landscape use, and also your perenniality. Because there's great freedom in making pasture mixes when you fully acknowledge a realistic productivity window for persistence. Once you've acknowledged that you can actually create all sorts of pasture mixes and be happy with them, you tend to find where people aren't happy with pasture mixes, where their expectations are too high, and they really just don't turn out to be what they want. Because what I think we should go into next is actually creating some of these expectations and you know, or what are some strategic positions on different landscapes like dry land or irrigated or natural rainfall? Early country or late country. And I mean that by spring and early spring country or late spring country, and we will tease that out a bit. But I think I'd like to highlight understanding how a plant grows also helps in understanding its role within a mix. So, for example, plants like lucerne and red clover start with a taproot and they tend to be a strong plant in one location they're sown. And so you get one seed and one plant and it tends to hold its space quite well with the species like lucerne, red clover and chicory would be another good example of one seed, one space within the pasture. And with a big enough resource base in a taproot, it's holding its space within the pasture. White clover and sub clover are two different styles of legumes and they are smaller seeds or in the case of sub clover a slightly bigger seed. But they are one plant that colonises one spot, but they move constantly. So with stallones, white clover is constantly shifting through the pasture, looking for more space. Subterranean clover is again hunting for space and light to keep seeding on its runners. And so they are a very different mechanism that you can have smaller amounts of them and they will develop with time because they are constantly moving. Those two would be really good examples where you can work with sowing rates because you've got to get out of jail, which is they will keep colonising and filling in for each other. When it comes to the lucerne, the red clover, and the chicory and the plantain type species, within a pasture mix, one seed, one plant, one location in the pasture mix.
Juddy So, and I guess coming from an animal perspective now you can see here we are, we might be trying to generate more legume in a pasture at a certain point of time. There's more than one way of doing this. And I think that's the bit what I might want are more legumes because there's different ways of doing this. And they may be more or less successful, depending on the environment you're in, that's making sure that you match the right legume for the environment to drive the change that you want in your animal system.
Allister Yeah. And I think it's the example and probably the best example of asking the first questions like for example, what would you sow if my aim was to get high legume content and then if you asked me that, I'll give you an answer. So basically, if that's the aim you've got two or three key strategies. One is you match deep rooted perennial legumes to your grass and that they are strong and dominate their space. But predominantly they will still struggle if the grass has taken up too much space early and that pushes yields forward and you have to graze your pastures very early, in which case these legumes may, particularly the perennial and tap rooted legumes, may get a bit compromised. So grass sowing rates are one of the most strategic ways to reduce your competition on the legumes and the legumes and herbs, for that matter, tend to really excel when they get a lot of light early. And so moderating grass sowing rates can be changing grass species. Predominantly in New Zealand, we use perennial ryegrass as the basis of our perennial pastures and it is a very complete establisher, exceptionally reliable, very fast of first grazing, very few environments aren’t ready to be grazed within six weeks, entering the productive system virtually straight away. Capable of growing autumn into winter from an autumn sowing and carrying quite large covers, again shading. And so this concept of ryegrass for competing against weeds, for example, it's also competing against clovers and herbs. So you can move to other species like tall fescue. And tall fescue has a much slower development phase, one that really enhances all the other components of the mixture to develop. And you tend to find well-established tall fescue stands have exceptional clover and herb levels to the point where we often reduce the sowing rate of the herbs in a fescue stand because you may reduce the perenniality of the stand because the herbs can dominate the grass for such a strong establishment.
Juddy Yes. So I think this is really good because these are kind of the factors which affect what comes from those seed mixes. So what you've described here as if we're looking to increase legume content, for example, we can change sowing rate. We could change the species of grass that's least dominant at the start, I guess, is another couple of things that we can do. One would be early grazing management to try and maintain, lighten to the base. So I think we've got to be really switched on to what we're going to do in terms of actually grazing management. The other one and I think it's it goes along with both the species or particularly the species is the environment. So whether we're free draining and whether we're hot also has a big impact in terms of which of those species dominates from an early start. So I think there's a range of factors that you've got to take into account when you're thinking about these pasture mixes in terms of getting your outcome. It's not just simply going, I want more legumes, I'll put more on the pasture mix. There are a whole lot of other things that will give it will influence what you get from the pasture mix that you put in.
Allister So because we elevate legume as such a productive part of our pasture, you know, I'll give you three really good reasons that you need to be fully aware of what it means to drop your grass sowing rates and for different locations and different environments. The first is that straightaway, the grass is the single most competitive thing against weeds. So as you drop that can compete, you've got to identify that if you have a pasture mix that has got herbs in it and you have a massive elevation of weeds because the grass content is not competing, you may be forced into a chemical use which may threaten either the chicory or the plantain within the pasture mix. And in some cases, if the weeds are aggressive and undesirable, you may also threaten the establishment of your clovers. So that's a quite a big deal. The second is if in autumn particularly, there are two things that go on in the autumn, you reduce your grass sowing rate, and some of them you might take 40% of the grass out as an example to elevate this legume content. From what I can see over time, you tend to find that pasture will, by the following spring it will have been producing about the same and cover the ground pretty similarly. However, you may give up between six and 800 kilograms of dry matter between establishment and about the second grazing phase before the pasture is producing equally at a later date. So that 600 to 800 kilograms doesn't sound like a lot. But when it's part of your autumn winter feed wedge it's actually quite a lot of feed that goes missing at a really critical point in time. And then if you're in a wet environment and you've got low grass cover because you've sown at a low rate. Particularly on clay, you can find that when you go to feed them for the first and second time because they're so much more open, you can get quite a lot more pasture damage as animal hooves hit the ground, not grass. And so the consequences, they get a little bit more fouled utilisation and that critical season of late autumn and winter becomes less because of the soil. There's more soil on the pasture. And what you find is again, you're limiting your winter usage of quite open pasture.
Juddy Yeah, I've seen this in the past where in some of the trials where we're just mowing, right, that there doesn't seem to be a difference here. But where we've got the interaction with grazing animals and where we've got some challenges in terms of particularly winter wear, you're absolutely right. Having those extra plants in the ground is the difference between really opening this up or still being really productive. So I'll take your point there. I think, let's switch now to these pasture mixes and talk a little bit about the establishment techniques that we might use to get some of these pasture mixes in. Because they are actually quite important when we're thinking about these pasture mixes, and how we establish those. There are some things we need to think about there. So if I'm putting in a new pasture Al, tell me about some of the ways that we might go about doing that.
Allister So you've got three primary techniques. One is cultivation, another is direct drilling, and another one is broadcasting, which technically broadcasting is more closely linked with cultivation as a delivery technique onto a cultivated environment. But they are still they still have subtle differences that are worth being teased out. And then you've also got oversowing and undersowing which is worth trying to work out if we can find some agreement on which is which and what they are.
Juddy I'm looking forward to that discussion.
Allister Terminologies are always, always the crux of most of these things, and many people can hear those words and think quite different things.
Allister So cultivation, you tend to find one of the biggest characteristics of cultivation is the opportunity to level an environment. So fixing holes and unevenness in paddocks, but also to sort of aerate and create an opening event in a landscape and remembering we're not talking about an arable world we were cultivating all the time. We're talking about a pastoral landscape that may stay in a pastoral phase anywhere between six and 12 years. So cultivation is not what is perceived to be in an arable sector where you might be cultivating and giving up organic matter on a constant cycle. So with cultivation, you know, you're bearing quite a lot of material you're creating, you're breaking up the soil, aerating it, you're creating some mineralisation opportunities. And it's a really strong way to get a strong establishment phase.
Juddy So I think of a full cultivation that you're talking about. I think of that when there are probably two major problems. The first one would be compaction. And so if we do have some compacted paddocks, we are looking to do a full renovation. And part of that is the full cultivation. The other one and you kind of mentioned that there was we I've got some really big problem weeds and if I can bury those and kind of start again it's a really good restart point. So that would be the two times where a full cultivation would be quite beneficial. So talk to me about direct drilling.
Allister Direct drillings, obviously minimal disturbance of the landscape, and this technique has been around for 30 something years now in New Zealand we use it quite widely. It's pretty constant. Does surprise me how many people think that it's novel or new but it really isn't. And it has been a pretty stable technique in the landscape would be hard to judge exactly what the ratio of cultivated to direct drill would be today. It would be really hard to estimate over the greater landscape, but it's a very, very common establishment technique, one we watch very closely because cultivation is probably the highest level of outcome we've got. It delivers the most consistent results. And as you put more stresses in the landscape, you start to risk your final result quite often. And in the case of direct drilling, you need a lot of preparation. It's the knockdown of the existing pasture. It's the awareness that existing trash within the paddock has got two big issues. One is that it is still holding a lot of insect pressures that are still housed in the previous existing pasture and haven't been disturbed unless you've physically sprayed them or taken them out. And the second is that all that brown material is also soaking up nutrient. And so for that brown material that's been in the roots underground initially, they absorb a lot of nitrogen out of the landscape and hold it while you're putting young plants on the ground to try and grow vigorously. Sometimes the nitrogen release from direct drilling can be quite weak. So direct drilling is a very good technique for going into quite weedy environments as long as you have had a good knock down of existing weeds. It hasn't disturbed the topsoil and released a whole lot of new weed seed. And so it's a good technique for putting lucerne, chicory, plantain, into pastures. However, you do have to take out perennial weed species first before you have the privilege to be able to go into a weed free environment, even using direct drilling.
Juddy Yeah, because I guess it's certainly a fast way of doing this in terms of the turnaround time can be quite short, but I think success is very dependent on those points you made, cleaning up what was there, cleaning up your problem, weeds, double spraying and then making sure that.
Allister Just to stop you there. That's the whole point you've said fast but double spraying that's a 20 day gap between your first spray and the potential for weed seedlings and material that hasn't died to regain before being sprayed again prior. So it's not actually as fast as you think. It means that you don't have as many passes. You don't have the cultivation. But so many people do one spray and then sow, and then you're ending up compromising your future perenniality because you haven't had a complete cull of your existing species. You might have rhizomatous grass weeds, you might have thatch forming weeds that have got a big crown, that you haven't taken a full kill. And therefore, soon as you've sown they're still rejuvenating virtually straight away to become another thatch forming species within 2 to 3 years. So direct drilling, there are no shortcuts for an extremely good direct drilling job, it's not a lot cheaper because you require all of what I've just described are the two knockdowns insecticide and quite regularly you require a good nutrient loading at the start to get an outstanding result.
Juddy Yeah. So you're right, it's not actually any cheaper and I take your point, probably not any faster. In fact, you might argue that if you are prepared to do a couple of late nights on the tractor it might be quicker to actually do a full cultivation. But in terms of not disturbing the soil and there are certainly some environmental considerations in terms of direct drilling, a very useful technology as long as we've taken into account our weed burdens. And I think particularly it's one that's caught me out on occasions, the pest pressure because even though the grass looks brown, we still have some pests in there that could make establishing or a difficult for establishing young plants.
Juddy Well, let's talk through broadcasting.
Allister Yeah. So probably we're broadcasting and it's a technique, but we've just discussed the two preparation techniques but direct drilling is the one that gets out of sync because it's the delivery via direct drill technology, which is either disc or a culter direct drill. Of which that same drill technology can be put through a cultivated pasture. But once you've cultivated a paddock, you've got the options of taking a drill through or broadcasting seed on top. And this is where it starts getting interesting around the success of the different species. So what I can say is that all the herbs and legumes thrive on being close to the surface. They feel, as we've discussed them, that are good gap fillers with a tap rooted species, they hold there space with the running and instant infra species, they constantly move. And when you've got more of the seed close to the surface in a cultivated landscape in a broadcast scenario, you've got really strong ground cover over time. However, grass doesn't like to be broadcast it likes good seed contact, soil seed contact and it does like to have and we see it with oats the most. You lose a lot of vigour by shallow sowing oats, you can give up anywhere up to about 400 kilograms of drymatter leading into your winter feeding system. By sowing oats too shallowly and oats are just a big grass. So when you put the grasses on the surface, they do lose a lot of their vigour and you tend to find they can be quite open and weak regardless of the sowing rate. Grass does like to be delivered at around one centimetre and you tend to find it likes to be compacted and in a solid soil state around there. And that's where you get to maximise your vigour and your outcome from a grass sowing. So you can see they're not the same. And with broadcasting, you sort of need to be aware tighter clay soils are easier to compact, and roll, and have a nice consolidated seed bed. Fluffy soils are actually quite dangerous for broadcasting and roller drilling it is another technique we've just discussed, which is almost like broadcasting with a roller before and behind. And what you tend to find is that that can give you variable sowing death based on your soil. Clays, it's really precision, but on very free draining and fluffy or light soil, you don't know whether bow waves or the way that the rollers are functioning with the soil type. You can have seed on the surface or seed at three centimetres, so you don't have the precision element of a drill, which you set for a centimetre and a half and technically it delivers the majority of the seed at those rates.
Juddy And I think you've just highlighted a really interesting point here, and that is when we mixed seed, right, there was always going to be some compromise to one of those species in terms of the way we sow it, the companions it has and the environment it's going into. And so all of those three things probably come together to give us what we get at the end. And I think that's the really important point, is that our pasture mixes need to reflect at a high level what we're after. But it's all those other things that will come into play to actually decide what you get at the end.
Allister Absolutely. And so, for example, already this podcast has been consumed a little bit by the original trigger and the original statement is about legumes, which is a high level desirable species inside our pastoral environment. However, if you then created another trigger which hasn't been said just yet, which is persistence and perenniality, all of a sudden we start to enter a whole new discussion and you know, it keeps coming back to matching species for the past the three year phase we talked about. So many pastures have this glory phase of eighteen months to two years of which most farmers, they should be very aware that these will be the most productive and high quality and most diverse pastures they have on their farms. And so all of the new pastures should be seen as 'special purpose', given being focussed on putting high quality stock on them and stock that they can get a lot of leverage out of. Because they will never be better than they are in their first couple of years because of both the diversity of what's in the pasture, but also they are in a very vigorous and healthy state. So if you talk about perenniality though, it is about being really thoughtful about what you put in your mixes, knowing the ecology of the plants, and recognising that beyond three years. Different plants may become more valuable over time, and they may be representing the true perenniality of your pasture decisions.
Juddy And again, you make a really interesting point here. So we've talked as you rightly say, at the start talking about increasing legumes. But that was our first question, what do you want? And if the answer to that question is, I want a long term perennial pasture, some of those decisions about what we put in, how many legumes, what the sowing rate is, what environment we put them into, could be completely different if the outcome needs to be perenniality. And this, I think, is something that a lot of people probably don't necessarily fully understand is that there is a compromise. Right. And what a lot of people want is I want lots of legumes, but I want lots of diversity, but I also want this to last 15 years. And so there is some tension between those two things. What we are wanting from a high quality pasture or something that's got a high legume content often isn't the same thing as we put into something that's really persistent in some of those environments. So actually defining what you want out of your pasture, I think is the absolutely first question you should ask before you talk about pasture mixes.
Allister And just to put that in perspective, that ecological principle that most landscapes will turn to about 66% grass is a fact. And the key is it doesn't have to be the grass you've sown, it will be a grass. So it will be in any number of weed grasses will be the steady state of your landscape. So you can put in as little as grass as you want or as much grass as you want. But after 3 to 4 years, the landscape will predominantly be about 66% of what there will be grass. So you really do have to think about it that if you don't put enough grass in at the start, it will still get to a very grassy environment, it just won't be the grasses you want.
Juddy Yeah, good point. We are getting towards the end of this, but, I really want to unpick the under and over sowing. Let's get to that bit, give me your definition of what undersowing is and what oversowing is.
Allister Oh well, this will be just an Al & Juddy sort of definition special because, you know, like I say, for me, this is how I've logically seen it over the years. And I would encourage people to consider it from a logical perspective. In my eyes undersowing is dragging a drill technology through an existing pasture and putting seed under the existing pasture of which it is going to come up through. And I'd use direct drilling into the dairy sector particularly, you know in northern North Island we use a lot of undersowing to recover from heat stressed pastures in the autumn before we're trying to build pasture cover for calving really early in winter. Damaged pasture in Canterbury or the Manawatu would be the lower North Island and central South Island would be another good example where you've got an existing pasture that is pretty good, survived the wet conditions and grazing okay. But has enough patches that you just need to drag something under it or through it.
Juddy It would be the same thing if you've got maybe a high legume pasture that's running out, if you were dragging a drill through that and putting a grass in.
Allister A nice example of that would be like a six or seven, maybe an eight year old lucerne stand and you wanted to direct drill some prairie grass into it or some cocksfoot into it. You would undersow it into the existing stand.
Juddy Okay, so I'm really interested. What is oversowing.
Allister Well, here we go. Technically, this is where I would drive a vehicle or fly a plane and broadcast over the top of existing pasture. Oversowing hillsides has been in historic terminology. That's why it gets all messed up when it comes down to the flats. But it's where you might, for example, your Ecotain would be a really nice example. You may consider broadcasting some Ecotain over the top of your pasture to introduce it into that pasture over time. On a hillside, you may have really good wool prices or very good lamb prices, there might be a change of weather where you have been a little bit moister than normal. And you have made a call that you don't have enough clover on your hills and you might prillcote some clover and oversow it over the top with helicopters or airplanes. So I would describe it as broadcasting over the top of a pasture, not placing it under the pasture with a direct drill technology.
Juddy Right. That's really quite logical Allister, actually, for you. That's really logical.
Allister Partly that's the way I would like it to be coined. But it's not what everyone's grown up with, so I fully accept that.
Juddy Right. So to summarise, because I think we've had a really good discussion here in terms of pasture mixes. Let's try and bring this together.
Allister Yes. But if we're going to do that, we sort of need to focus on its one thing, like you touched on earlier. It's one thing to create them and pull them together, but it's another way to work with them afterward and how you treat them. So we've touched on it very briefly. Early grazing is really essential and for some dry land environments, young pasture ends up being a part of the winter feed profile. And so they're moving young pasture through to nearly 3000 kilograms of drymatter to be used as their winter grazing. So this is really not a great way to start a young pasture. And if you're in a general circumstance, you mentioned using early grazing to allow light to come in. And for me, that's the biggest of all. Early grazing of all young pastures gives you tillering, it enables light and to allow legumes to continue to develop. And don't be afraid of quite decent grazing as long as you give a good break. So allowing light. The other thing about post establish management as herbicide use and be aware the more you want in your pasture, the least amount of times you should be pulling the trigger on herbicides. But if you have got some weeds that you do not want for the perenniality of your pasture, there often is no option but to do it. So seek really good advice about what's a compatible herbicide to use in a young pasture.
Juddy Yeah, because I think that's a really interesting point there. It's the ones that are going to cause you problems for the longevity of the pasture.
Allister Some of the annual weeds I am personally not that concerned about so they are more aesthetic and maybe they create a bit of burden for future cropping rotations if there are a lot of them around. But the reality is many of them can be grazed out.
Juddy Yeah, early grazing.
Allister Many of them could be topped using a topper through the first phase.
Juddy Yep. That's great points there. So it's really those weeds that are going to cause problems for the longevity of the pasture that we really need to get on top of, everything else is likely in an annual cycle to be grazed out, potentially topped out, and not going to be there for the following year.
Allister So just again, before we do go into the more summary type form, I would also highlight with the modern era we've been getting a lot of focus on diverse pastures. And one of the highest principles I would ask anyone whose farming lifestyle doesn't actually matter, who is going to have a mix and bring a mix onto their properties. The first thing I would always encourage you to do is be fully aware of what plant species you're bringing into your landscape and actually know them because making the mix is quite an important thing. Reading a website and saying, I'd like this plant and this plant and this plant and this plant in my mix. I think the point is you've got to take personal responsibility to know what you're planting and whether it's useful in your landscape, whether it has problems like reseeding and becoming a weed species, whether it's got any animal health issues with time, might be good at one point of the pasture mix, but actually, at the end it's awful. All these things you have a personal responsibility to know what plants you're putting in your landscape and your pasture mixes. So I really do encourage people to do their homework, understand the plants and their roles, and by understanding their roles before you have discussions with your industry professionals about putting mixes together. Understanding their roles means that you can actually elevate their priority and your pasture mix based on the questions you might ask right from the start of that process. So your homework, know what you're planting in your landscape, and avoid planting off lists without knowing what everything on that list is.
Juddy Yeah, we've certainly seen some interesting examples of that.
Allister I might have been guilty of delivering one of those to you in Marshdale in our diverse pasture project. Glenn and I do apologise now to you and your neighbours, so we'll leave that one.
Juddy There's a legacy there, but we will leave that one. So in terms of pasture mixes, I think let's summarise what we've talked about because I think there are some really key themes that have come out of that. I think the first one for me in terms of actually understanding what you want this pasture to do. So is this something where they are going to go through this, as you say, glory phase where young pastures are good pastures, but in the end, what do you want out of these? I think that's really important. And actually put a plug in here that will actually come a lot down to the animal systems that you're driving off this. So ask what the job of this particular pasture is before we go making these pasture mixes. So it's the first one is actually what do you want this? I think the other thing is in terms of making sure that we've got the right species, but that does come back to some of the stuff we've talked about. The environment how you are going to establish this, and what your expectations are out of that. And so I think that's another interesting point there. Seed characteristics, we've talked about those and how they also impact the species that we put in, but also the relative amounts of that. So I think that's a really important thing to think about. We've talked about your establishment techniques and I think the key one that you've mentioned there at the end and teams of knowing the plants that you are putting in and making sure that they're going to do what you want them to do, but also that you're not putting them in and causing legacy problems. And that's particularly important where we've got some species that we haven't often seen in our pastures some of the new and oddball ones, they may look very useful, but there may be some issues with them further down the track. And I think that's really important to get some advice around what those might be. Any other summary points there Allister? What else did we cover that we need to know?
Allister That's a really nice example you've given us. The key phase for me as an agronomist is to ask you the question sometimes you may not be asking yourself. Why? What's the purpose? What's the short term opportunities? What's the long term aim? Are you being realistic? Because I feel that creates great empowerment when you're making mixes, when you are more realistic to, particularly longevity, you can wait pastures for the earlier part of their rotation if they're not going to last as long. But if they're going to, the expectation is for them to last a long time. You will be considering other species, not just your favourites. Things like cocksfoot will be one of those species that are an important secondary species in a pasture mix. But by the end of the rotation, it could be dominated by cocksfoot at year five or six or, seven. So you need to understand these processes and why you're doing them and their purpose. So asking the right questions, getting the right expectations, and then considering establishment techniques and recognising that as an industry we make, I, in our books, particularly in our material, make the most basic of recommendations because I want to have the most consistent of results over the single biggest landscape in New Zealand. So our standard recipes are good and on average get strong results, but we can do anything with these mixes. So when you quote things that are written down in technical manuals like from Agricom, the reality is those mixes are designed to have the highest consistency of outcome. We cannot afford to have the phone ringing all the time because of failures. And so those are the most consistent dials of pasture mixes that you see from industry bodies like ourselves. However, we can do anything. You can do anything, do your homework, ask the right questions, get the right expectations.
Juddy All well I have actually got a drill pulling into the paddock in the next hour. So I think what I want to do is shoot out and check actually what the seed mix is that's going in, and make sure that it's what I ordered and I understand what's going in. So thanks Al for all that excellent information in terms of past mixes, we might see you at the next podcast.
Allister Thanks, Juddy. Leave you to it. Bye bye.