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Appropriate Paddocks

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2 min read

Risk matrix Paddock history Soil type Shelter and water

Wintering starts with picking the right paddocks. Your choice impacts crop yield, cost, and winter success. Consider slope, soil condition, proximity to waterways, the presence of Critical Source Areas (CSAs), and other factors listed in the risk matrix on the page. Plan your grazing ahead and keep regional regulations in mind. Paddock history, soil type, and availability of shelter and water are all crucial. Opt for resilient soil types, ensure good shelter, and always provide fresh water. Effective management of winter forages can significantly cut losses of nutrients, soil and E. coli.


The success of wintering starts with choosing suitable paddocks.

There are many factors to take into account when deciding which paddocks to graze cows on next winter. Choosing your paddocks carefully is important as it affects the yield of the crop, the cost of establishing and growing the crop and ultimately whether you will have a successful winter.

Before you start your planning, ensure you are aware of any regulations that your Regional Council may have and the national wintering regulations.

Risk matrix

Consider the risk matrix below. If your paddock is high risk, consider options to mitigate the risk. Where a paddock is high risk for more than one factor, consider options to winter in an alternative paddock.

Factor Low Medium High
Slope risk 0-5° 5-10° >10°
Soil risk Well-drained, structurally resilient soil Artificially-drained soil Soil is poorly-drained
and/or vulnerable to
compaction
Waterways/drains Paddock distant to
streams and drains
Paddock has an extensive
network of artificial
subsurface drainage
Paddock is directly
adjacent to stream or
wetland
Critical Source Areas No CSAs present A few CSAs present that are
easily fenced off and left
ungrazed
Many CSAs, occupying
>5° of paddock areea
Shelter available Yes Very little No
Flood risk Never floods Very occasional
surface flooding,
limited areal extent
Flooding is known
to occur over a
large % of paddock
Paddock history
(soil fertility and
weed and pest issues)
Good fertility and no
weed and pest problems
Fertility OR weed/pest issues Fertility AND weed/pest
issues
Years out of pasture First year in forage crop Second year in forage crop Third+ year in
forage croop
Tillage method No till Minimum tillage Conventional (full)
cultivation
Ease of management
for staff
Multiple access points
and easy access to
reticulated water
One access point
and no reticulated water

Consider creating a draft grazing plan prior to sowing your crop. This will help to highlight any factors of the paddock that will make the paddock difficult to manage.

Note that it is important to check your regional council’s regulations and use these to guide your wintering decisions. Information about wintering regulations for your region can be found at your regional council website.

Paddock history

The history of a paddock can have a significant impact on its potential yield. Each paddock on farm will have a different history. In regard to growing high yielding winter crops, it’s good to know the paddock’s soil fertility and it’s weed and pest history.

Many agronomists are happy to visit the farm on a regular basis to monitor your crops for weeds, pests, diseases and any nutrient deficiencies. Discuss your expectations with your agronomist before the crop is planted

Soil type

Where possible, plant crops in areas with resilient soil types that are less prone to pugging damage. These soils will also be more resilient to winter grazing and will be able to be regrassed earlier.

Shelter and water

During cold, wet and windy conditions, cows become susceptible to cold stress. Where possible, plant crop in paddocks with good shelter. Alternatively, allow a feed buffer in your budget to account for feeding extra on cold, wet or windy days.

Cows must always have access to fresh water. Water can be provided by a permanent trough or by portable water troughs. Before planting your crop, make sure that your cows will be able to access water whilst grazing it.

Careful management of winter forages will significantly reduce losses of nutrients, soil and E. coli.

Last updated: Sep 2023
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