Pugging damage


2 min read

Assess Pasture Damage Assess Damage to the soil Make a plan Ground preparation Management post-sowing The cost of doing nothing

Managing pasture damage after bad weather involves assessing and fixing areas pugged by cows. This page provides guidance on handling small to medium-sized parts of paddocks, such as gateways and feeding areas, that have been affected by adverse weather conditions. For extensive damage, complete pasture renewal may be necessary. The page outlines actions to assess damage to the soil and pasture, categorise it, and make a plan for repair. Ground preparation, seed planting methods, and post-sowing management are detailed, alongside warnings about the significant cost of neglecting damaged pasture, including reduced yield and increased vulnerability to future damage.

Managing Pasture Damage After a Period of Bad Weather

The information below will help you determine what to do with small to medium sized parts of paddocks which have been pugged by cows during bad weather. These can be areas such as gate ways, around troughs, feeding out areas, temporary lane-ways in paddocks, or where cows have been driven into a corner by wind.

In the case of large areas or whole paddocks extensively damaged, the best option is complete pasture renewal preferably following a cropping phase.


1. Assess Pasture Damage

  • Use a farm map, walk each paddock and mark in the damaged area, estimate the area of damage. By doing this you will build up a description of the problem at hand.

2. Assess Damage to the soil

  • In the most affected areas dig holes and look for signs of compaction and lack of soil structure, also check where water is not draining away due to a compacted layer below.

Rank the condition of pasture and soil from 1 - 3:

  1. Mud (possibly dried) with little or no pasture (soil compaction issues)
  2. Severe damage to pasture, soil surface rough and pugged but not churned up
  3. Light to moderate damage to pasture, soil.

3. Make a plan

Need to treat areas ranked in Category 1, 2 & 3 differently.

Ground preparation

What is needed to get adequate growing conditions if you are going to plant seed?

Category Description Action
1 Where the soil is highly compacted Sub-soiling or ripping followed by cultivation will be required. The soil will need to be dry enough to do this successfully.
2 Where soil structure is OK but plant density is low May need to roll ground before drilling to improve the accuracy of seed depth placement. Use a large flat roller with a minimal amount of water in it.
3 Light to moderate damage Roll and use urea to encourage pasture growth.

Decide on drilling or broadcasting of seed

Cross drilling or using a 125mm coulter drill is generally the best option as it gives the quickest most even result.

Hand sowing or broadcasting is fine for small areas. Try to cover broadcast seed by harrowing.

Italian and hybrid ryegrasses will establish quicker, definitely use these where you expect to crop a paddock in the next two years.

In pasture expected to last longer, use a densely tillering  perennial.

Drilling with fertiliser will help new plants get established and compete with older ones. Use 150kg/ha DAP or Crop20.

Management post-sowing

Where practical keep stock off the resown areas e.g. by using a hotwire. If not possible graze leniently first time, by leaving a slightly higher residual than usual.

Monitor repaired areas carefully during the first grazing. Try not to graze until the grass is able to pass the "pull-test"

Remember that soil that has already been pugged will be more easily pugged again until a full cover of pasture in attained, so continue to practice careful grazing management to avoid further damage.

Use N fertiliser on all damaged areas throughout the season to encourage pasture growth and increase tiller density.

The cost of doing nothing

Research has shown that pasture seriously pugged in Spring will produce about 40% less DM than undamaged pasture through the following season. For each ha of damaged pasture with a normal production of 14,000kg DM,(ave for SDF) this is equivalent to a loss of  5600kg DM, at 20c/kgDM this is a revenue loss of over $1000/ha. Pasture yield reductions of up to 80% have been recorded....

Losses will continue over following years as the affected areas will likely become infested with weeds and unproductive grasses. If soil structure is not repaired affected areas will also become more prone to future pugging due to impeded drainage.

Last updated: Sep 2023
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