Who can tell us about our grass?

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4 years 7 months ago #536343 by Kokamo
Hi, we're about to settle on a 10 acre block in the Wairarapa. It's knee high with lush grass, buttercup, a few thistles but we have no idea what's good & what's bad in terms of future stock. We know its safe for sheep as it was grazed until recently when they started digging trenches for the subdivision. Are there consultants who'll come & look at the block, (even just a little one) and tell us if the grass content is good or bad,, how to get rid of the bad stuff, whether we need to fertiliser, with what & when...basically we want a grass expert. Any suggestions as to where we find such a person?

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4 years 7 months ago #536345 by sandgrubber
Replied by sandgrubber on topic Who can tell us about our grass?
Do your neighbors have sheep? If so might be a good excuse to get to know them. An invite for a cuppa...or a beer... might be a good start.
I'm new to NZ... I find that when I can't find a neighbor that can give me an answer, someone at our local Farmlands Coop usually has a lead. Not sure if that works all over NZ.

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4 years 7 months ago #536347 by Hawkspur
If your grass and other plants have seed heads you could pick some of each, lie them down on a flat surface and take close photos. I did that to identify some of ours and got answers on this forum.

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4 years 7 months ago #536364 by tonybaker
Look - don't go overboard on this! The Llamas or sheep will soon tell you what is palateable anyway, and they are very good at avoiding toxic plants - unless they are starving. Eventually you will probably decide to spray it out with Roundup and resow with a herbal ley or just stick with it and let the new seedheads do their work. If it has a major infestation of couch grass , which you can see as white knobbly bits of root in the soil, you may want to take action earlier.

5 acres, Ferguson 35X and implements, Hanmay pto shredder, BMW Z3, Countax ride on mower, chooks, Dorper and Wiltshire sheep. Bosky wood burning central heating stove and radiators. Retro caravan. Growing our own food and preserving it. Small vineyard, crap wine. :)

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4 years 7 months ago #536377 by LongRidge
Before you start, you need to work out which kind of animal that you want (eg sheep, goats, cattle horses, pigs, alpacas, deer), what you want them for (eg fattening, breeding, fleece, or aged pets), what your soil is currently like (eg heavy clay, peat, volcanic ash, river bed, sand (our lower paddocks are 20 meters above the current river but they are stoney riverbed)), what the animal drinking water reliability is ( eg cows need hugely more water than goats), what the rainfall is like for your area, and what fencing you have.
When you have worked this out then you need to carry out a soil test to check which major elements you have. Then relate this to the animal needs to work out which fertiliser your pasture needs to grow the kind of pasture that your animals need.
Thus to help your consultant, or us if you want, give some more guidance about your aims. Some kinds of animals can be run together while others should never be together. Some animals should not be run on the same pasture as others, while with some a mix of animals is useful.

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4 years 7 months ago #536445 by Kokamo
Thanks Longridge, that's a lot to think about. Alpacas for fleece are definitely on the cards & most likely a few sheep, but we're at the start of a very steep learning curve, so it's hard to predict exactly how things will turn out. As I said, there have been sheep on the land until recently, so we know its safe for them. By the looks of things there's a good foot of topsoil then a lot of clay. Whatever the makeup of the grass is now, it's certainly pretty happy looking, but we would like to know which bits are good & which less desirable, hence the desire to find a pasture consultant. Do places like PGG Wrightson or Farmlands provide these services?

Anyway, we can't put even sheep back on until we've sorted out a water supply, so what happens to 10 acres of grass that's left unattended for several months?

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4 years 7 months ago #536446 by Stikkibeek

Kokamo wrote:
Anyway, we can't put even sheep back on until we've sorted out a water supply, so what happens to 10 acres of grass that's left unattended for several months?


It grows and you turn it into either silage or hay , or, it grows and grows, seeds and falls over which might leave spores like facial excema in the ground depending on where you are, or, it will eventually rot down and make good compost, but that takes time, makes the paddocks look a mess, and takes quite a while to get pasture back to graze-able standard.

Did you know, that what you thought I said, was not what I meant :S

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4 years 7 months ago #536457 by tonybaker
a fallow as been used for centuries as a means of increasing pasture growth, nothing wrong with it. As you are not farming for your living, i would just let the grass/weeds grow and see what happens.

5 acres, Ferguson 35X and implements, Hanmay pto shredder, BMW Z3, Countax ride on mower, chooks, Dorper and Wiltshire sheep. Bosky wood burning central heating stove and radiators. Retro caravan. Growing our own food and preserving it. Small vineyard, crap wine. :)

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4 years 7 months ago #536477 by LongRidge
The bugs (a fungus called Pithomycese chartarum) that make spores that cause Facial Eczema are found throughout the world. But, and it is a very big but, the spores of the NZ type are many times more damaging than any found overseas. So Facial Eczema is not an animal health problem anywhere except in NZ. It is fairly uncommon in the South Island, so those of us down in the cooler climates do not need to treat every year. But the 2016 autumn caught us out very badly, and it was even a problem as far south as Geraldine. FE only harms ruminants so not equines and pigs and grazing birds. Are camelids ruminants?
So in the North Island it is very unwise to do fallowing, and to top without removing the clippings in late summer. North Island NZ is unusual in that fallowing can be very harmful.
The other problem in all of NZ is that fallowing will acidify the soil, which will make the soil better for growing weeds than pasture, which can mean that all the seeds that the weeds have made can grow and the pasture seeds be suppressed from growing. Only a very few places in the South Island are naturally alkaline enough for pasture to grow preferably to weeds, and not be a Facial Eczema risk.

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4 years 7 months ago #536489 by Kokamo
That's even more to take in. We're in the Wairarapa, so warm dry summers. We have no say in what happens to the land until the subdivision is complete, hopefully January, but sounds like it might be worth making enquiries of the developer, what he plans to do before then. If its nothing then do people who make hay or sileage bother with a mere 10 acres, & if so, how do we find such a person, so we can deal with it quickly after settlement?

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4 years 7 months ago - 4 years 7 months ago #536492 by Mudlerk
I'm afraid South Islander LongRidge has gone a bit beyond his competence in his sweeping analysis of our North Island facial eczema risks.
There is NO need in Manawatu [and quite possibly the rest of our island] to treat every year for FE. Being near the Massey Vet School, we receive weekly sporidesmin (the FE fungal toxin) counts during periods of potential hazard. During the particularly humid 2016 autumn counts on Tokomaru properties did reach high levels several times, and smallholders there were advised to take preventative measures...primarily, treating cattle with zinc in water troughs and sheep with zinc boluses [sheep don't drink a lot of water, especially when the grass is wet]. However, 7 kilometres away at Linton, spore counts remained low enough to pose no appreciable risk, even in that exceptionally warm, humid summer.
It is a large overstatement to suggest it is 'unwise to do fallowing' simply because FE spores can be picked up by animals grazing half-rotted grass at ground level.
Likewise, in our part of the island at least, there is no appreciable risk in topping pasture in late summer and leaving the seed heads and stalks behind. Until he retired and sold his 3,000+ Romneys two years ago, our neighbor across the road did this every year.
Last edit: 4 years 7 months ago by Mudlerk.

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4 years 7 months ago - 4 years 7 months ago #536495 by Rokker
We safeguard our cattle against FE every year regardless, by adding zinc to the trough water supply. Given the right conditions, FE spores can rise to dangerous levels very quickly, but it takes time to build up an animal's resistance. If you don't take action in advance, then if and when spore counts suddenly rise it can be too late. Better to protect and not need to, than not protect and end up with a problem.

We seldom fallow any paddocks, but we normally top some of them to remove seed heads to encourage continued growth over summer. Topping is done soon after grazing. By the time the animals are rotated back to the topped area - about 30 days - the paddocks are back to safe grazing levels.

Do NOT cross this paddock! ... Unless you can do it in 9 seconds, 'cos the bull can do it in 10!
Last edit: 4 years 7 months ago by Rokker.

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