Pasture Improvement Leadership Group

The Pasture Improvement Leadership Group (PILG), led by DairyNZ, includes researchers, the seed industry, farmers and agricultural contractors.

The group was originally formed to help tackle issues affecting pasture persistence and performance head-on by ensuring farmers receive consistent, timely messages. To highlight a broadening of scope, the group name has recently been updated as it aims to tackle a wider range of pasture persistence issues.

There are a number of research projects and initiatives underway across different industry organisations and the PILG is a communication channel for all these pieces of work. Articles are regularly published in editions of Inside Dairy and can be found on the Grass Roots page.

Resources that have come out of the work of the PILG include the DairyNZ Pasture Condition Score Tool and the DairyNZ Pasture Renewal Guide.


25 September 2015

In this trial at Massey University a plot of annual ryegrass (outlined in white) has died out completely. Picture taken early February in a reasonably moist year.

With the present low milk price dairy farmers are sensibly questioning where they can save money.

DairyNZ’s Pasture Improvement Leadership Group is offering some information to farmers looking at the options.

DairyNZ productivity team leader, Rob Brazendale says it is false economics leaving paddocks of annual ryegrass in through summer, and not putting in a summer crop.

Agriseeds pasture systems manager, Graham Kerr says “these need to be resown, or you are going to end up with a paddock of weeds”.  

This is illustrated by the picture of a plot trial at Massey University No 4 dairy farm where an annual ryegrass plot (outlined in white) was sown among other ryegrass species.

“Annual ryegrass goes to seed in November and then pretty much stops tillering and dies,” he says.

“People need to be aware that the ‘do nothing’ strategy will result in getting a paddock full of weeds and summer grasses, that won’t feed much at all, and will need extra work to be resown.”

There are a number of options for spring crops to consider, depending on the needs of the farm system. Maize has always been a popular high yielding crop. Chicory and summer turnips are the most popular forage options, with chicory suiting sites with more pest pressure, as a multi-graze option. Turnips suit some areas where insect pressures are less.

Other options this year may be to spray-drill mixes (i.e. spraying paddocks out with glyphosate and then direct-drilling) that include some or all of the species: chicory, plantain, red clover and white clover.

Agricom Australasian brand manager, Mark Brown says it can be tempting to look to save money by simply oversowing seed of these, for example with fertiliser through a spreader. “But results are variable and we would strongly recommend using spray-drilling,” he says. 

In trials run on summer crops of chicory and plantain at DairyNZ’s Scott Farm in the Waikato, spray-drilling seed grew 2.1 to 2.3 tonnes of dry matter per hectare more than oversowing it, making spray-drilling cost-effective.

“There are options for growing more high metabolisable energy summer feed if you need it. Our advice is don’t cut corners, do the job right, and you will get better returns with less risk of failure,” he says.

Pasture Improvement Leadership Group:

Rob Brazendale DairyNZ/ project lead
Kelly Rijswijk AgResearch
David Hume AgResearch
Warren King AgResearch
Graham Kerr Agriseeds
Chris Glassey DairyNZ
Mark Brown Agricom
Cathal Wims DairyNZ
Stu McHardy Farmer
Geoff Peake Farmer/Contractor
Martin Johnson John Austin Contractors
Willy Burnell DairyNZ
Grady Bennett RD1

Simon Larsen


Sally Peel