John, who is a 50:50 sharemilker on the 110ha effective farm, won the DairyNZ Pasture Renewal Leadership Group's competition for best first-year pasture.
The winning paddock was sown on March 20, 2013, with One50 AR37 - a diploid perennial ryegrass with a high ranking on the Forage Value Index (FVI) for the northern North Island.
John says it's important not to leave the sowing date too late. "It must be sown before April to provide better conditions for cultivation, increase dry matter production and build resilience for the critical first winter."
The paddock, which was previously in chicory, was sown at 22 kg/ha, using 18kg/ha of ryegrass and 4kg/ha of clover, says John. "To create a good seed bed I sprayed and power harrowed the paddock. I used a motorbike spreader to spread the seed and did one pass with the heavy roller."
John says he uses the Forage Value Index to identify high performing varieties and chooses two diploid perennial ryegrasses to sow each year to compare performance and minimise risk. The second ryegrass he used this year was Trojan NEA2 which is yet to be ranked on the FVI and was selected based on information from technical sales representatives.
The pasture was sprayed with 'Select' at six weeks, which John says was effective for killing the weeds and chicory regrowth.
"I took a cautious approach to grazing management in the establishment phase," says John. "I made sure the root system was strong enough before grazing, using the pull test to check the roots stayed in the ground."
John emphasised the importance of treating new pasture with 'respect'. "I didn't graze in wet weather, and the paddock is part of the effluent block and receives fertiliser according to the recommendations following soil testing.
John also shared his approach to grazing management over summer dry periods. "I don't graze my paddocks below 1450 kg DM/ha (3cm), and to avoid over-grazing I take the herd off pasture and onto chicory and feed more supplement."
Judges Tom Fraser, senior scientist at AgResearch, and Te Awamutu dairy farmer Geoffrey Peake, said the top pasture was established by correct choice of endophyte and good grazing management.
"John took care to avoid overgrazing when pastures came under stress and paid attention to weed control in both the pre and post sowing period. This ensured a high survival of sown species," says Tom.
John won $1000 worth of pasture renewal products, including seed from Agriseeds and Agricom.
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