Mind your soil before grazing forage crops

19,400ha of forage crops have been planted under the Fodder Production Incentive Measure for tillage farmers.

Many more crops have been planted outside of this scheme and, while there is a great need for fodder in the country, farmers should be respectful of their soil.

Up to last weekend, soils across the country were extremely dry and could take animal traffic.

Soil moisture deficits

However, heavy rain on Friday (October 12) morning and all day in many parts of the country on Saturday (October 13) made a dent in the soil moisture deficits (SMDs).

From Monday, October 8, to Sunday, October 14, rainfall levels ranged from 20.7mm to 63.2mm across the country.

SMDs are almost at field capacity in many areas; some poorly-drained soils are over field capacity. Some soils in the north east of the country remain well below field capacity.

Watch ground conditions

Farmers should be cautious of ground conditions where animals are grazing forage crops. Where farmers are afraid of soil damage, they may be able to change tactics in order to maintain soil structure.

Zero-grazing or harvesting may be an option in some cases. However, machinery can cause soil damage as well.

Light animals may be the best solution. Weanlings and sheep are ideal for grazing forage crops. Heavy animals should be avoided in wet conditions.

However, if land becomes extremely wet, the best option may be to close the paddock. Damage done on wet soil in a short period of time can have a lasting impact on proceeding crops.