Join Al & Juddy as they delve into one of the fundamental aspects of a calendar year, wintering systems.
They unpack how to select the ideal wintering system, taking into account the factors of your resource base such as how much land for the number of animals you have.
They discuss the various characteristics of different cultivars and rotations, offering insight into optimising the area you farm on, with a particular focus on the dairy system.
"Winter is challenging, but it doesn’t mean to say that we need to change the system completely. I think by looking at best practices and being sensible about them, we can navigate our way through those challenges" – Glenn Judson
Juddy Well, Allister, good to see you again. Another podcast. What are we going to be covering today?
Allister Well, Glenn, we're going to be covering one of the two main systems in a calendar year where we're trying to keep our optimum stocking rate through one of the toughest seasons in the year. And that's looking at wintering systems.
Juddy Oh, that'll be excellent. So probably we should start by giving our listeners a little bit of a description of the pastoral system within New Zealand I know we've got an international audience and give them a bit of a description of the pastoral system and also what winter is. What are the characteristics of winter that we need to overcome in some of these systems.
Allister Okay. Glenn. Well, just harking back to what I did say, the definition of the efficient, productive animal feeding system that we have in New Zealand is the ability to carry a certain number of stock through either summer or winter, depending on your region and which is the most important. Summer, if you're dry, is a massive limitation to how many capital stock you can carry on your property. And likewise, if you're in a cold environment, the amount of animals you can carry through winter is a major consideration about how you can unleash those animals on a spring production system. And so, of course, here in New Zealand, we are predominantly a temperate environment. Our latitude defines that we are quite cool in the South Island of New Zealand, relatively speaking. We certainly benefit from being oceanic and we are surrounded by oceans. So therefore only a small number of areas of the South Island of New Zealand are really cold in the middle of winter. The rest is just cold, which basically means we get quite low pasture growth rates for about three to three and a half months of the year in the majority of the South Island. Now the North Island, as it's latitude moves further towards the equator, is got a climate that probably 80% of the landscape can actually grow quite well in winter and therefore they can actually continue to grow temperate grasses into the winter months. So what we're really describing today is how do you maintain your capital stock units through a cold winter to allow your pasture covers to keep developing in cooler environments that you can then unleash a lot of animals on the spring growth profile and harvest it in a very efficient way.
Juddy And there's also an aspect of this in terms of can you concentrate animals in a certain area which allows, you know, if there was any soil damage, for example, to be confined to a smaller area rather than across a larger landscape?
Allister Well, there's a lot of consequences to the choices of process that you want to use. And of course, today we have to understand those consequences a lot more. And that is exactly right. Your concentration of animals in winter when you're feeding outdoors is quite a big deal because it's your wettest time of year on average. Not all soils are as heavy in New Zealand, we have a many light free draining soils, but also we do have heavy country which has implications for this. So I think that very much is part of what this discussion is about today is listing the styles of wintering feeds we've got, I feel for again, a large number of listeners from different areas. You know, we outdoor winter in New Zealand, our animals typically are extremely well fed outdoors from a nutritional perspective. So that is part of what we focus on is presenting nutritious forages that are presented in a healthy and good way. And then we adapt and feed on these forages to maintain a really positive body condition score and or momentum for them to be released on to pasture in the start of spring.
Juddy So I guess if you've got a if you're running one of these systems and you're looking at your program through the winter, particularly around some of the crops that you're going to sow or even the styles of winter feed program that you're going to run, one of the first questions will be, Well, so what are my options? What are my options in terms of maybe the crops or the pastures that I'm going to use? And secondly is once I've got that choice or made that choice, how do I actually operate those in a system? So lets unpack the first one first and going, so what are the options? What do we need to think about when we're trying to choose the wintering program that we're going to employ for the following winter?
Allister Well, initially, it is one of your resource base is like, how much land do you have for the number of animals you've got? And I feel that is right up at the top of the discussion. And so that really defines what you are chasing, whether you are looking for a large amount of yield and a relatively small footprint or you have scope and therefore you can afford to have less yield come winter, but on a much wider footprint. And so the natural resources of any one farming business would define that conversation. And then secondly, understanding whether you have soil with good water holding capacity with a mild and moist summer or natural irrigation, or you are free draining and dry land. So what we do tend to see, though is our wintering programs in the South Island, particularly of New Zealand and including quite significant elements of the North Island, have two sowing windows, the first is at the end of spring and the very earliest phase of summer where we're putting in a long season crops predominantly based around our long season brassicas and also beet has become a very functional part of our wintering system. So these are forage options that can be sown on spring moisture profile, can be established into the late spring and early summer phase. And then we are relying on either the strength of our soils or our natural rainfall or irrigation to continue the crop development through the summer. In some dryland environments, they can get quite beaten up by basically hot, dry conditions which bring in a lot of insect pests. But as long as those crops stay alive, they are all very strong at continuing there development through late summer and early autumn, they put on a huge amount of growth. So these long season crops that are established at the end of spring, early summer on the back of spring saved moisture and then carried through a summer growth phase which can sometimes be quite stressful and other times it just elevates the yield by using water or natural rainfall. And then the second phase is the late summer winter feed crops that are utilised through either through summer fellow conditions where any summer moisture has been captured or you're exiting a rotation where your land is becoming free sometime between the end of summer and the start of autumn. And at these times you are looking at the sowing of shorter term brassicas short term ryegrass options and some of our cereals, particularly in New Zealand, predominantly oats.
Juddy So there's lots of options there but when you think about the sowing windows and maybe the natural capital of your land, then those options is probably you know you're down to one or two that fit your wintering system.
Allister Yeah. So our recommendation and as you well know this would be to start with a feed budget. In the New Zealand context, when you're feeding outdoors and you're relying on what you can achieve from an outdoor feeding system, you start your process by understanding the numbers of animals you need to get through that winter phase. You need to work back to there diet, which we're going to bring out very shortly. There supplementary feed that is added on top of the cropping system and then you need to work back to average and reliable yields that are achievable, recognising you can have big ups and lows depending on your climatic conditions. And this will continue to give you this picture of how much you need to invest in. And when you've got X amount of land very quickly you'll work out. I need to move from the lower yielding crops to the higher yielding crops, otherwise this is not going to work and these animals have to be feed some other way, which is often a lot more expensive than in an in-field feeding system.
Juddy Yeah, and typically you would say that as your expectation in terms of yield moves up with some of these longer term crops that you're also asking for some higher inputs in terms of driving that with fertiliser for example and at least summer moisture for example. So it's not that you're just picking these on how much to grow, but again, coming back to that natural capital of the land that you're on.
Allister Yeah. What it is capable of delivering is really appropriate in a modern era of being efficient in the way you look at things as not to fertilise for an extremely high yielding crop potential when you land isn't able to deliver that. So that's a lot of excess fertility in an environment that's not going to get converted by the crop to a yield.
Juddy And so if we just kind of go through the groups of crops that are potentially on the table to do that and let's just describe, you know, the sowing times, whether they are the longer crops or highlight some of the examples of that. So if we move through that and then sort of some key features of each of those. So if we start with the group that we call the brassicas, so they are our kales and our swedes and that style of crop. So when would we be typically sowing those?
Allister Yeah. So for kale the window is a little bit wider than swedes. Swedes can sometimes be called rutabaga depending on exactly where you are, but the window for kale can be a bit wider and we can be looking in a drier set of circumstances. Kale can be and at the end of spring, predominantly in that sort of last month of spring where you tend to find the root crop, which the swede is as quite vulnerable to be sown too early because you've got to remember these are long season crops and the older the crop, the more chance of diseases coming in. And with a bulb crop, particularly diseases, are particularly destructive because the bulb dissolves before the animal gets to eat it. And so the longer you put your crop in the ground, the more exposed you are to insect based damage events, literally damage to the top of the plant, which can under more humid conditions of that autumn phase allow a lot of dry rots particularly and then followed by soft rots to come on and dissolve your crop. So there is a window of time in the sowing of swedes, which is what I would describe as a high health time, relatively speaking, and that's actually about getting it right. And so you are looking with a bulb crop typically in the first weeks of summer for us that is defined by December. And I would suggest that's an ideal time for swedes in most conditions. Kale as I say, can go earlier than that. But you just got to remember with kale, it's a very tall plant with a large stem and in its final state and that stem with age becomes lignified. So the earlier you plant it, the more lignified the stem is by the first week of winter. So because of the crop, is really quite old by then. So it's definitely a crop that you also want to optimise your sowing with one eye on grazing because you can influence the quality of the crop by your sowing date.
Juddy So tell me, can you sow kale or any brassica out the back of a plane? Can you broadcast that?
Allister Yes, you can, absolutely. In the New Zealand context, we have done that. What's changing is land use and the impact of slope on your ability to do some of this. But the reality is absolutely with good preparation you tend to find you go into a two spray program on that landscape where you're taking out a thatched grass stand and you're using animals to take out a lot of your pasture and give you a very grazed out environment. And then you're coming in and glyphosating that, and then you're looking at applying that to the slope after that.
Juddy It's really good because I see they are developing an invisible aerial top dressing plane, an invisible one.
Allister Illuminate me Glenn.
Juddy I just can't see it taking off.
Juddy Anyway, back to more serious things. So we've got the brassicas now the cereals, tell me about the cereals.
Allister This is a great lead in mate, I didn't see that coming. I answered that seriously.
Juddy Tell me about the cereal. So where would be use these?
Allister Well, it's probably more that actually there's another species that we should be discussing prior to the Christmas a long season species, and that's beet. And so beets come into the New Zealand the last 20 years and has been a great cropping opportunity because we're basically horticulturalists when we were growing these sort of crops on grazing farms because rotation and keeping a brassica rotation healthy with soil diseases, particularly things like club root and as I've already mentioned, dry rot. These are diseases that as they elevate in your environment, you're actually become very, very limited to what you're able to achieve. And because most of the options we have in the New Zealand feed system are brassica, particularly for wintering. The arrival of beet has made a really significant difference in to our rotations. It's a species that does not get the same soil based or plant based diseases as brassica, which basically gives us a great crop in a rotation.
Juddy So just to highlight that, say if I have grown a crop of swedes, for example, one year and then I'd change brassica and say grow a kale crop the following year. So that doesn't keep me away from the brassica diseases.
Allister No, what you've done is correct as that you cannot grow swedes after swedes because they're a highly susceptible crop for the brassica disease club root. You can definitely grow kale after swedes because kale is a much, much more tolerant species. The problem with kale being a tolerant species, people like to try and crop it many years in a row. Now this is obviously not good for the soil, but it's also not good for disease build up and one day we will get strains of club root which kale is really susceptible to, which then suddenly starts to limit your farming enterprise dramatically. So beet coming in as a rotation break has been a very very good thing for our brassica rotation.
Juddy And I guess any other species as well. We were going to talk about cereals, which we will talk about in a minute, but yeah, having cereals in that break as well. Would also be useful.
Allister The average and this is the beauty of the average New Zealand wintering system is we have breaks all the time and they are called a rotation that often rotate into pasture. Our issue is when we have two smaller area and we have to go faster. And so suddenly having different species options becomes more important when you've got a smaller area. If you've got scope and you've got the privilege of a large landscape to winter on, you've got all the options in the world. But when you are a relatively small entity and you've got a defined amount of land, suddenly these higher yielding style species like beet like kale, like swedes are really attractive because you get to hold a large number of animals on a really small area and relatively speaking, protect the rest of your area from the damage they can do in winter.
Juddy Yeah. So beets long season.
Allister Well, that's the long season winter crops.
Juddy Yep, any special requirements for the beet crop. Any different to the brassica crop. Is there anything more that needs that you know we need to be thinking about.
Allister Well mainly that the fact that the beet crop can definitely follow brassica, but beet species, particularly fodder beet, is quite susceptible to soil structure. And so if you've already got a soil structure in decline because of your previous wintering phase, that is the one weakness of following brassica with fodder beet is that you're in a declining soil structure and fodder beet really does love really fresh soil that is coming out a pastoral phase. And so no compaction or minimal compaction and so beet thrives in that situation. The other things are just making sure that you recognise that any sort of weed control you can do before you start with beet is always a good thing because it's weed control program is pretty minimal.
Juddy Yeah. My impression of this is, you know, if we're going to those beet species, we need to recognise that we are likely to have to have a bit more weed control, that there is a little bit more care.
Allister It's a defined program and it's all about the weeds being very, very small for the success of the chemistry. The real issue is depending on the type of weeds you have leading into it. So anything that sort of gives you a clean environment will make the process of growing beet a cheaper experience.
Juddy And when you think about kale, kale is I think you've got a lot more options in terms of controlling those weeds. So they are our long term or our long season winter crops what about a little bit shorter? So they have probably been sown in the autumn, late summer, autumn.
Allister So you're probably looking at 90 to 100, 100 to 110 day crops, and they are being sown in late summer and maybe the first month of autumn probably is the happy place for maximising return. And what we're looking at there is still a couple of brassicas that fit into that category.
Juddy What are they?
Allister Yeah, so we've got the rape family. Forage rape is one of the primary and just remembering with forage rape there's these two general groups and one's a short maturity and one's a long maturity rapes. One matures in 75 days, one matures at 90 or whatever. And as the season gets cooler, you tend to find you can't get the high in yields from the late maturity rapes. So your decision about what you use is far less meaningful in the autumn than it is in the spring.
Juddy So let just describe when you talk about maturity. What do you mean by when it is 75 days maturity?
Allister Well, you know me I get confused between maturity and ripening. So there's two things going on. And typically I think they're both related. I would describe maturity to relate a little bit to when a crop reaches ceiling yield or at the very same point of time, a crop that will not continue to develop in height, for example, where another variety may keep developing on and may separate at height quite dramatically at the same point of time. So the shorter types, for example, quite often hit a sort of a ceiling yield technically sort of coincides with a improve ripening phase for the photosensitivity, which is can be an animal health issue grazing rapes too early. And you tend to find there's a little bit of a linkage point for them when they start stopping growing and maturing and ripening and minimising the risk of photosensitivity, which is not normally a winter grazing issue.
Juddy Not normally, no. And I like your description of that. So you've got this maturity and ripening and while they sometimes coincide you know I think you've made the distinction well in terms of what we're actually talking about and typically in those winter ones, we are talking about maturity reaching there potential yield given their conditions around them.
Allister So the earlier you sow, the more I go to a 90 to 100 day rape, which will always give the potential to be a bigger rape. But as you go later and later in your sowing, it doesn't matter which variety you have because you're defined by day length divided by time and you're dealing with a shorter end outcome. So technically either maturity works the later year sow.
Juddy And so any other brassicas that sit in there?
Allister Well, I'm a big fan of leaf turnip, which is not something everyone relates to winter feeding. It's a 55 day fast first graze, multi graze summer crop. But I've always seen it as a bit of a battery and it's just when you use the battery you get 3 to 4 regrowth cycles out of leaf turnip because you start early, you get a regrowth cycle quite early. I think because we've been so fixated on it being a summer crop, we've failed to recognise that that regrowth system can actually work in late autumn and winter and it just doesn't drop dead with frosts and things like people have sort of assumed the species does. So we've seen a really good synergy associated with using leaf turnip from an autumn sow. Probably in that mid to late sowing window where I think the rapes are bitter first. And then as you go a little bit later the fast raising cycle of a leaf turnip fits at being sown with annual or Italian ryegrass at 55 to 60 days is normally that first grazing window and then get in into a regrowth system.
Juddy We've seen recently being used in that very way where it's maybe a slightly late decision. And it's ready far sooner and it's a regrowth model, using the right way can be very, very useful strategically.
Allister Yeah, I would see that better for deer, sheep and maybe R1 cattle or young yearling cattle for their first winter. Anything else would just destroy it. It's not a resilient multi graze brassica under the hooves of big cows. And so yeah, I think that's your key brassicas for the autumn phase and they are all pretty effective.
Juddy So cereals.
Allister Well, cereals are you get out of jail at the end and the most important thing is to be weary of relying on cereals in total because there are two phases to that late summer, early autumn winter grass sowing the first stage you should never consider cereals. There is always more to be made out of annual ryegrass or Italian ryegrass than you ever can get out of a cereal. From it's flexibility and how it finishes. So while one it will grow, it won't necessarily always grow as much to the first week of winter for you as a cereal will. But if you can manage it without destroying it, how much it gives you for the rest of the season, right through to when your next rotation kicks in the following spring is way beyond what you've got. And so I would always say, you know, the late summer to halfway through the first month of autumn, you would still consider annual ryegrass or Italian ryegrass for using as winter feed before you go to oats and then the end of the first month of autumn and the start of the second month of autumn. That's your window where oats are dominant because of their germination and cooler conditions and their accumulation is so much superior for that second half of that sowing window. I do believe even with oats today, though, we are going to see a big increase in not just using oats, but using oats and grass. So that's oats, an annual ryegrass oats and Italian ryegrass because the need to keep some vegetative growing plants in bare ground in winter is becoming a much more attractive proposition from an environmental perspective. And so once you have grazed your oats, once they typically die under the winter conditions we work with and you've still got big ground. So having a little bit of Italian or annual ryegrass coming through your bottom of your oats and always having a green plant present after a wintering cycle is a good practice. And I see that likewise that can be done with mid season sown rape as well. So for that, autumn rape and grass is a very traditional New Zealand winter feed and I can see it being utilised wider in the future.
Juddy Yes, so again, we're seeing this and it's probably not a new concept, but it's one that I think we were starting to kind of rediscover as these winter crops with more than one species.
Allister And I would say it is an old concept that has got a significantly modern meaning which is keeping bare ground in winter is not really where we want to be. And so mixing rape and grass, oats and grass is one of the best ways of keeping green material on open paddocks in winter.
Juddy So now the short term grasses, we've talked a little bit about the Italians and the annuals. I think for the benefit of our listeners it would be really good just because I often hear those terms sort of interchanged. So let's just deal with the true annual ryegrasses. Tell me a little bit about how that compares to an Italian. And were you would use both.
Allister Okay. For me, it is really important to understand that in the New Zealand system at this current moment. The genetics of Italian ryegrass are the most winter active plants we have got. They grow the most feed by the middle of spring of all the genetics we have available, annual ryegrass is a predominantly triploid in nature. They are predominantly good looking, but they aren't the top yielders in the New Zealand system at the moment. The top 3 to 4 grasses by the middle of spring are actually Italian ryegrasses. So the genetics we have got in the Italian category is particularly good for winter growth. The annual ryegrasses look big, look impressive, but by actual yield terms the Italians, it's all variety by variety as far as you know, who is the best. However, annual ryegrass is often cheaper than Italian ryegrass. And then you define what your need is. If you are not expecting to carry any green material through you wintering and you're going into a rotation by, for example, the first or second month of spring and you're going to kill your existing pasture to move into a next renovation phase, annual ryegrass is really where you want to be. It's good value for money. And the point about annuals is that once an annual goes to seed it wants to die, it doesn't give you true options to carry on through another summer into a following autumn. It naturally wants to die, so the moment you invest on an annual you are defining, you have got a reducing return on investment from about late spring onwards because the plant is actually wanting to die.
Juddy Yeah, and this is the bit that is a little bit frustrating from time to time where you hear people that have employed an annual ryegrass and then are disappointed in terms of what they consider persistence going into its first summer when actually it has done its job.
Juddy The genetics say...
Allister There's a few varieties out there that have 30 or 35% survival or more resilient plants within its population, but that's 35% the rest of the whole population has wanted to die. The why I look at Italian as still a really strong option. If you do not have the clarity about what you're going to do the following spring. The one thing in Italian in a wintering program does is give you a chance to come through under free draining soils in a situation where you haven't plugged it badly because of stocking rate. You've had a good class of animals on it and it's come through in quite good condition by having an Italian and making the decision way back at the start may have cost $20 a hectare more, may cost $35 or more. However, what you've done is given yourself the flexibility to change your mind and carry it on for another six months and you carry it on at a much higher performance level than a plant that is actually wanting to die. Because by definition, the Italians, particularly in the New Zealand market, have moved very significantly to natural biennials that are actually wanting to live for multiple years. So they have definitely moved away from that annual trait and heading towards a plant that wants to live for literally two, three years, depending on the climate and the environment.
Juddy So when we talk about these short term grasses and we try to decide about whether we're going to have a true annual or are these Italians, it's really the eye on what happens next. Which guides us.
Allister Yeah. And for me, if you've got a really defined program, it's winter crop to maize, for example, winter crop to a chicory stand. Sown in mid spring or to another brassica or beet in mid-spring annual ryegrass makes a lot of sense. Remembering some of the Italians can do the job just as well. But you tend to find that becomes a financial decision and your decision with the happiness of your variety choice. But when it comes to Italian, why I would always invest in that 95% of the time is it gives you a choice to change your mind and still have a productive base coming out of it, assuming you haven't destroyed it through the first winter.
Juddy Yeah, of course. And so that probably the list of forages that we've got in terms of our brassicas either long or short season, we've got our beets, we've got our short term ryegrasses and then right at the end we've got the option to do cereal and we could graze that cereal or we could take that for silage for example. So we have some options there. So if we just really quickly run through because I think that could be quite useful, really quickly run through each of kind of the typical farm systems and we could kind of have a crack at. So talking about what's common and what would we do commonly in our system. So let's start with a really easy one. We've got a dairy system, we've got dairy cows that have been in the New Zealand system dried off in the autumn and we are trying to hold those for maybe only 65 days, for example, before they calve again and join the lactating herd. So typically for that in the past we've used kale as a really important feed source within that the other options there. And beets also become quite useful in terms of holding large numbers in relatively small areas they would be the two dominant.
Allister Kales and swedes and actually just not wanting to digress too much, but back when we discussed the forages, we did miss permanent pasture as one of the forages because this is where a discussion is emerging about the concept of all grass wintering and the concept of being able to hold these animals. With dairy I think that the high level concept is that these are very high performance animals and we are wanting to maintain our body condition in many situations and maintaining body condition because one of the bigger farm practice management's on dairy farms is to making sure you're drying off at the right time in the autumn from the seasonal milking system that we have in New Zealand, where we're calving in late winter and running a spring dominant milking system, one of the big drivers is two big drivers to drying off in the autumn. One is cow body condition. Knowing how tough it is to put a body condition on through wintering and the second is obviously a whole farm pasture cover where it's just maths. You have an idea about your potential growth rates in your landscape. You need to get to a critical, for example, 2200 kilograms of dry matter come calving having a wedge which might have paddocks at 283 down to 2000 or 1800 and you're still requiring a whole farm pasture cover of over 2200. Often you're drying off at about 1800 total farm pasture cover in the autumn because you're are defined by your wintering to how successful you are to hitting those critical pre calving pastoral masses. So those are the two big decisions. But remembering the first one is drying off cows that are reducing in body condition so you don't have to put it on through winter, however, I would define our system as being has evolved and you've played a big part of the feeding systems associated with allocations in dairy feeding and New Zealand. And one thing I would say is that we are feeding highly nutritious feeds to these cattle through winter. They are getting huge energy intakes, excellent crude proteins and the intricacies of delivering it to an animal that has been in lactation, mostly feeding on pasture, then moving on to a wintering crop is something our industry has grappled with over the years but are also becoming experts in on average, so a large number of animals are transitioned out of pasture into crop successfully, highly successfully, and then carried through a 50 day grazing before getting back on to pasture before calving in late winter. So I would suggest that in the dairy system, the majority of systems are targeting the big crops where you're putting these big cattle, eating a large amount of dry matter in a day and recognising just how much they need to get through a winter in good condition. Now the all grass wintering system and debate for dairy systems has continued to develop, but typically you need area, you need to be able to stretch your arms because a stretch of wings because really you're needing nearly three times the grass base to do this on. We are seeing a baleage feeding system sort of develop where you're actually making up some of the lost yield you get from crop when you're just wintering on grass. Typically a traditional grass pasture is only capable of holding about four tonnes of dry matter. And yes, we can deliver that on the day at between four and six tons of dry matter. But you got to remember nearly two extra tonnes of that is dead material when the base of that pasture.
Juddy Yeah, I was going to make the point and you've just made it really well and that's around the benefit of these brassica and beet crops particularly. But is the fact that not only can we hold high amounts in terms of tonnages, but actually the quality of that is.
Juddy Exceptional and that's what I think is going to be a real challenge if we go to these all grass wintering systems is to actually hold any decent cover in as high quality as we can get in some of these crops.
Allister Yeah, and this has gone into a whole different style of discussion, but we're talking about wintering systems and all grass wintering system is quite doable. I mean, we just need the scope to be able to do it. But you can't afford to shut up your pastures too long because you get this build up of dead material. And this is like cardboard at the base of this pasture. And yes, it's a barrier for the hooves to hit the ground and create damage in winter. But that's also defined by your stocking rate, which is defined by the number of bales of silage you put in your paddocks to artificially elevate your stocking rate of what you can only do on grass. I still feel at the heart and soul of this as this discussion about how expensive or cheap each one of these are, but also how well it does animals. And so you still got to keep remembering that baleage has to be of high quality, almost of the equivalent of milking quality, because baleage can often be underwhelming in its true quality status. It's typically only filling up a feed deficit. And this is the key is that all grass wintering system, if you do the maths on crude protein, on ME going down the animals throat on their ability to actually eat enough in cold conditions, the intake for ME particularly and to a lesser degree protein is heavily dependent on the quality of baleage you're putting in and the quality of baleage is heavily dependent on the yield that you cut your silage, crop at. And so the lower the yield, the more expensive the silage, but the higher the quality, the higher the yield, the more cost effective the silage, but the lower the quality. And you've got to be careful that when you start to convert out of a brassica system where you're piling on the energy, piling on the protein, you're then coming into a grass system which has actually got a lot of dead material, maybe not at the start of winter, but definitely by the end. And then the quality of the supplement you're adding to that system, you are not feeding the energy profiles that you're feeding in a cropping system. So the other awareness things in the dairy and we can do anything, absolutely anything and scope is the one that gives you the privilege to have a lighter touch on the land. But if you don't have the scope and by scope I mean the area, you know, you have to think very strategically about what are you prepared to damage and then put back into rotation and fix to concentrate any damage that is done and to a smallest possible area, allowing the rest of your property to flourish through the winter months.
Juddy So if we just quickly go through the rest of our farming systems. The beef finishing system very similar in terms of we're trying to get these animals to grow through that winter period.
Allister Although it's not as important, it is for R1s, but not necessarily for R2s. The important thing is that what you do with your beef cattle through winter is prepare them for a large pastoral wedge in early spring. So you know, it's more than a maintenance. Whatever you're doing in winter for beef it should be more than a maintenance. It should be trying to grow them. But the bigger point is that you should be keeping them off pasture for as long a period of time that you can get an element of compensatory growth associated with large pastoral volumes at the start of spring.
Juddy Yeah, I was going to make the point that your growth rate during during winter is probably secondary still important, really important, but it's still secondary to the ability to drive big springs.
Allister Yeah, really trying to keep those big animals, the big beef animals off pasture, build a big wedge in front and then put them onto a huge intake as soon as you can. The other thing that would define a beef system on these higher yielding crops is that they probably run for between 30 days and maybe nearly 35 to even 40 days longer than a dairy cow. So they are defined by the length of time that they'll be feeding these crops. So it's between 90 and maybe 110 days. So, again, long term nutrition focusing on making sure that, you know, protein supplied for the appropriate stock class in the long term, because that's the weakness of these big crops for a longer time. If you go into a deficient phase, you could see a collapse in live weight or potential animal health and performance.
Juddy This one, it's really interesting that feed budget in terms of making sure you've got enough is also helpful to make sure we haven't got too much because a lot of the time and we see this sometimes in early spring, we should be off on to our spring pastures, but we're trying to tidy up what is becoming an increasingly poor quality crop.
Allister Correct or a flowering crop in the case of Brassicas and the first month to the month and a half of spring. You know, if you've got say 15 to 20% of your whole wintering crop still present beef animals, particularly not dairy stock, but definitely beef animals are a great animal for cleaning up your investment. What I would highlight is that 15% left over at the end is your investment and not running out of feed in the winter. And what happens if it snows, for example, when you have a lower utilisation that 15% as your investment in buffering what ifs in your wintering job and you shouldn't be afraid of mulching that at a later date because actually you've already invested in getting your job done just because you've had a highly efficient feeding winter, for example, and having a little bit left over is a big deal. But also getting your feed budget in right at the start helps get it closer to that.
Juddy Closer to yeah, absolutely. Our capital stock.
Allister Yep. So this is ewes particularly more so than beef cattle. And so this is in the sheep industry getting ewes through. You tend to find the biggest crop used in for ewes is swedes in southland and particularly Otago and parts of Canterbury and parts of the Central North Island. So swedes would be the biggest single crop, followed closely by autumn sown rape and grass and possibly they would probably be the biggest thing you would do. Also, long rotations on autumn saved pasture is quite a common cropping system for getting capital ewes through where you're trying to create a 60 to 90 day rotation to allow your lambing pastures to develop cover.
Juddy And a lot of that really is around maintenance, trying to hold body condition, you know, not under feeding them, but certainly there's no, you know, if you've done the job right, certainly no need to overfeed them.
Allister It's so much more important to get a rising cover 1200 kilograms of dry matter at set stocking or rising and accumulating that and capital stock environments are often defined by being quite cold. If they were warmer they would often be running different stock policies.
Juddy Yeah. And for our deer guys I guess we should mention those, quite a different system. But if you thinking about particularly hinds and actually stags, really that is the area of lowest demand. Yes but again we still need to be able to have these animals in reasonably good condition through that period. I think the critical bit here is not necessarily what happens in winter, but it's how early we transition to a period where we need to start really feeding those.
Allister Yeah absoutely.
Juddy So, you know, once we get to the last month of winter, we should really be ramping these things up and so that winter feed can form part of that. But certainly again it's able to drive those big pasture covers.
Allister I look at deer particularly, I take my hat off to all farmers that have intensified deer farming over the years. I mean, what they do is amazing. Putting those animals behind electric fences is incredible. When you understand the stock class and the behaviour. It's incredible industry in New Zealand, it's always worth a look. But what I would say is that it's been a process of using beet, lesser degree kale, but these sort of crops have always been beneficial. And again, building covers, trying to maintain a live weights, which is always suppressed by the natural reduced intake through winter. But as you say, with every single individual animal one in your herd can elevate its intake markedly in the last month of winter, if you don't offer them the feed, you might miss out on hundreds of grams a day. We're in the middle of winter. You can only achieve 150 to 100 grams a day, but the light switch comes on and if there's no extra offering in front of them, they will not, you know, benefit from that moment they start eating. So I personally believe short term ryegrass is one of the best feeds for weaner deer, short term ryegrass is one of the best feeds for fawning stags and sort of velveting stags. The hind obviously is not a big stock unit through the winter at all. She is just to get through the winter so she can actually get out and just do a job through spring and until set stocking. So I sort of see probably beet has played a role in wintering deer. Swedes have stood in a role but I would definitely see Italian and hybrid ryegrass as two of the big crops. I would be putting those sort of animals down on.
Juddy So coming to the grazing methods because I think so we've made a comment on choosing our crops. We kind of understand how we'd use those in the different systems from a grazing point of view. I think there's a discussion to be had about because we often hear.
Allister Let's start with deer shall we? Step backwards because they have quite a unique stocking style. And I am going to use fodder beet as an example, is that you and I have watched this over the years. They can be on those fodder beet for about 100 and I've seen probably up to 120 days where they've started quite early, relatively speaking, like the last month of autumn and go all the way through to the start of spring. And these animals have been on them for a while. But the thing about fencing deer behind fodder beet is that you give quite large breaks and you tend to find they decimate the life of the crop and then eat the carbohydrate the bulb source over a long period of time. But when you're thinking about feeding these sort of animals, that's nutritionally quite a big deal, especially when you're feeding them for a long period of time. Because when the big breaks have got no green material on them for the biggest part of the grazing time, it means you've got no protein in their daily diet. So that has to be supplied via silage and a silage that has had a thought process around supplying protein. Otherwise you've got a protein deficient diet on an animal that could be grazed for 120 days.
Juddy Yeah. So there's a couple of things here. One is the grazing method. And I think you've highlighted the fact that in some of our more intensive systems, we have a daily break, which is a narrow strip and we are moving that on a daily basis. But in other systems we're forced to go to a large break, which might be over multiple days. And the consequences of those do come in terms of maybe the supplement that goes with it, recognising that we're trying to for some of those animals maintain a reasonably high protein intake. So they are the sorts of things you think about when you are looking at the grazing method, I think one of the first things that actually comes to mind is the allocation.
Allister This comes back in towards the cattle discussion, but also the sheep one as well would fit, it would be a catch all for those
Juddy What should they be eating? What should their diet look like? And I think we've got to take a little bit of time to think about what our diet formulation is. And for me, it comes back to first of all, what are you trying to do during that winter period? Do we have some animals that we're trying to put some condition on? You know, are there some animals that are going to be lambing early? Are there some animals that are a long way away and can be really on maintenance? So once we understand that, then I think I go straight to my feed tables and I look at the size of the animal and there productivity of that time and work out essentially the kilograms of dry matter or back to the mega joules of metabolise energy that these animals are likely to need for their desired outcome. And once I've got that then I start thinking about the balance of certainly protein. So if we've got bulb crops where leaf is being eaten off early, then we need to think about the, you know, on the last day of grazing a break, what that protein looks like and can we provide supplement for that to balance that. So I think they are really important. But I think getting the allocation right is really critical. And I think back to some of the work that we did in some of our dairy cows on kale trying to recognise that, you know, if we were offering these cows, you know, ten kilograms of kale and two of a supplement, what we needed to recognise was they will eat that, but they could potentially eat 14 kilograms of kale and three kilograms of supplement, so they could be up to 14 or 16. So making sure that we are feeding for the outcomes that we're after.
Allister And acknowledging how much they can actually eat, not just how much your spreadsheet says they must eat.
Allister Because I think that was the flaw in the 2000s when wintering systems really intensified is that we ended up doing a lot of spreadsheet wintering where it must just be this cost. And then the animal has to fit into the cost structure. Whereas actually now we understand the nutritional profiles that we truly need to deliver. We understand exactly how much they can eat. And, you know, what we're doing is offering a significant amount of feed now in most wintering systems. And so we're getting really good outcomes on average.
Juddy And so making sure their allocations are appropriate for the outcomes.
Allister Not wanting to overthink this. But what was one of the bigger flaws from the grazing in the mid 2000 when we're trying to allocate. One, we were probably a little bit guilty of spreadsheet wintering. The second part of that was, it was quite interesting and that the face was we had moderate allocations because we just needed to make it work, what was the other big impact on what was actually being offered to animals?
Juddy Yes, so a lot of this was where we were driving into paddocks and seeing utilisation rates that were very, very high, like they ate everything in. But what we were finding was those cows were hungry, those cows were still very hungry. And so we run into the situation where, you know, farmers commented that we can't put body condition score on our cows using this crop. And really that wasn't entirely true. It was you can't put body condition score on cows when you feed this crop and only this amount because you can imagine a dairy cow that's capable of eating 15 kilograms of kale and I'm only getting ten.
Allister Or being offered eight.
Juddy Yes, is not likely to meet that and what we consistently found is that what people thought they were offering and actually on the day we visited and the measurements that we made, again there was some quite big disparities, like, you know, herds where we thought they were being offered, you know, 12 kilograms of kale being closer to six. And so that was some of the spreadsheet wintering where, you know, we've got, a set area and it's going to have to last those cows.
Allister Yeah. So but getting back to what was going wrong, they weren't measuring the area because what I'm seeing and always have seen is that we're actually pretty good in our industry at estimating yield. And that is not the variation we are saying is that's not the yield that's the issue. It's actually the allocation.
Juddy Yeah absoutely.
Allister You're not getting a unit area right. That fence post to that fence post will do. It doesn't matter what's in there that will do so now we're getting that much better in our industry.
Juddy And one of the ways of doing that and this brings me long to another grazing method that we've been doing a lot of work on, and it is what we call multi day breaks. Where we are trying to fully feed animals. If you go to a maybe a three day break, they very quickly tell you whether they're going to finish right on that three days.
Allister Because you're ad-lib feeding pretty much for the first day and a half.
Juddy Or if they finish a three day break in one day tells me that you just got it wrong
Allister Horribly wrong.
Juddy Horribly wrong. And so these three day breaks and we've been trying to work on three and four day breaks because that means you have to shift anything in the weekend, which is quite handy. But these longer breaks, definitely you can't do it when you're trying to restrict animals, so if there are animals, where you're trying to hold them at a body condition in you, you're trying to drive and that doesn't work. But if you're trying to fully feed these animals and that might be in a situation where you've got a finishing system or cows in low body condition. Running to these longer breaks, these multi-day breaks, the animals actually get the ability to eat pretty close to ad-lib intake and therefore will tell you how much they're able to eat because they'll finish breaks far earlier than you think they will do. So that's been useful in terms of pioneering that the only other comment I was going to make before we sort of wrap up was around supplement but we have sort of covered this.
Allister We really have covered that.
Juddy Yeah. Just being aware that the supplement is there in a lot of cases to add protein or.
Juddy Or fibre and in some cases carbohydrate to the base diet. So it helps you kind of push the overall nutrition into an area that you want to go. So I think just being aware of how you're using those supplements.
Allister So just putting this in perspective, let's just discuss from a New Zealand feeding of winter Brassicas now what is the ratio we are recommending on average all total intake from a specific forage like using kale as a starting point.
Juddy Yeah. So I'd be I'd be happy in that if your kale is making up 75 to 80% of the diet and the rest is coming from a supplement, I think that's, that's a good average place. I think as you move to and not saying you can't as you move up to slightly higher so 80% of the diet, 85% of the diet, then you've just got to be much more careful about the supplement you choose and making sure that those animals are being, you know, are being fully feed and that you're not running into some of the other issues that you can get when your eating high amounts of brassica. So I like the 80/20 rules is pretty useful.
Allister Right, that's cool. I'll, leave that there, where are we going next Juddy?
Juddy I guess what I was going to do is just finish on a bit of a perspective on wintering itself. And so I just was going to get you to make a comment in terms of the importance of wintering as a starting point for pasture rotation, but also some of the challenges that we get in terms of wintering.
Allister So first things first, we remember the primary describer of the New Zealand efficient feeding system that is a very impressive animal system is where we maintain our stocking rate through difficult times of the year. And today we've talked about winter. This is a place where we can maintain our primary stocking rate through the winter to unleash that stocking rate onto a much greater grassland that starts to develop in springtime. And we havest that by animals, not machinery. So that's a really efficient grazing system. But you must hold enough animals through winter to be able to achieve this. So this is where we get into this perspective that we have developed this quite unique outdoor feeding system in our temperate landscape. But what has come as time has changed and people have looked upon different elements of that in different ways. And that's particularly animals on mud and animals on soil particularly, but also animals outside. And what I can see is that those parts are being questioned quite heavily at the moment. I personally believe that we need to own this part of the system and understand it is part of a highly efficient feed system. Everything we move away from that becomes less efficient in true sense and I sense that the most important thing is to own the system, to understand that there is a serious amount of best practice being developed at the moment and that it's important for everyone to embrace the concept of best practice winter feeding. This is thinking about things like critical source areas for water movement across soil. It's about putting pasture or crop, for example, catch cropping oats straight after winter cropping. So the ground has got green plants growing as fast as possible after a wintering process. It's also about understanding is your landscape and topography the right location to doing this practice. All of these things are laid out in the industry at the moment and elevate everyone's awareness and then at the heart and soul of it wintering can be quite a damaging part to soil profile. But if you focus on that, you're ignoring the fact that we have actually protected a large amount of the properties soils by keeping the animals on a specific area through these wet phases where those animals would have been spread out across a bigger landscape, creating damage in different paddocks and different locations and different weather events. So it is important to understand when we are doing harm to the soil profile. But then at the heart of our system is a pasture rotation. We cannot keep wintering for ever. The crops, by definition, will get disease and slowly break down. And so therefore we go into a pasture rotation and this may last between three and five years where you are are using a grass and legume and herb based pasture rotation, and over a period of 2 to 3 to 5 years, the soil conditions are regenerated through that process of grazing behind a rotational system. So I sense that what we have to understand is that wintering is a system that has its weaknesses, particularly the more intensive styles, but we can actually regenerate the damage we do by being responsible of how we do our best practices, but also going into a rotation that with sustainable pastoral grazing afterwards, we can actually improve soil structure over time. And utilising that reserves that we're putting in back in the soil to grow healthy crops in the future. So I do sense that's the part of the wintering system that we have to be all over for the future and sustainability of it as a practice. And I feel we are getting there options are becoming more and more available all the time and the understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of these wintering systems, as we've discussed today, has definitely elevated an understanding of one, how good they are, how amazing they are for nutrition on average. The floors of caring pastures and feeds longer than they can sustain and the dead material and the pasture quality that they can help. And it shows the strengths and weaknesses of all those systems. But you tend to find scope and land and how much land you have available are the ones that dominate the discussion on what you are trying to achieve in winter.
Juddy Yeah, so I think it's been very useful. Just a really quick summary we've talked about the forages. And the decisions or all the things you need to take into account when you're making those decisions. We've talked a little bit about how each and each of those animal systems, examples of how they would certainly fit in are covered a little bit often in terms of the grazing methods, you know, in terms of some of these larger breaks and in the consequences of doing that in terms of both grazing but also supplements. I do like, you know, winter is challenging, but it doesn't mean to say that, you know, we need to completely change the system. I think looking at best practice and being sensible about this, I think we can navigate our way through that. So, yeah, really useful I guess that brings to the end of this particular podcast obviously got to go and pick up a new dog, so we better say goodbye and we'll see you next time.
Allister See you next time Juddy.
Juddy Seeya. Well, we're joined by not Sally from Marketing or Susan from marketing, but we are joined by Lara from marketing to answer some questions.
Allister Hi, Lara from marketing.
Lara Hey everyone, Ashley has got a burning question. Heli cropping with herbages, is this a way to improve hill country pastures and improve quality feed without being left with bare land given new regulations?
Allister Yes, it is. But there's a few regulations associated with slope that you have to pay attention to. The other thing is bare land was part of that question. And it really does depend on whether we're describing using glyphosate to burn down existing forages and then broadcasting into the residual, which means you've got material on the surface. But the following winter, you may still have a certain amount of bare land. So we've got to be aware of that. But if it's talking about incorporating other forages into existing pasture, existing landscape, and even if it is talking about using glyphosate to burn out and then putting existing pasture species back into that landscape, absolutely. We do that quite extensively in hill country, we've seen great success with broadcasting brassicas, but also the herbs both chicory, plantain, red clover and white clover out of a plane into those landscapes to great success. We can re-establish pasture basis using that same technique, and it's just how you use that posture as a young stand may define how much damage to wintering, for example, you might do in that landscape.
Juddy I've got nothing more to add he's covered it.
Lara Nice. John's out here doing my job. I've got a marketing slogan sorted for you. You'll grow more tucker with Mohaka question is, will you use it?
Juddy Well, as a purist, I think, it's not a it's not a pure rhyme. So it's a partial rhyme. So I'm out on that one.
Allister I don't know, I rate it. I would use the tucker without a doubt. So if Mohaka is giving me the tucker, I'd be into that. So yes, I think I'll use that. I'll drop that one out there for you Mike.
Lara Keep your eye out. John.
Allister John, is it? Sorry, John.
Allister Thanks, Lara, from marketing.