Gareth - who sharemilks on a 188 hectare, 700 cow farm near Whakatane - believes every detail counts when it comes to pasture management.
"One mistake can hurt the grass. Paying high attention to detail is really important. Watching for changes, clover growth, grazing - you don’t want to overgraze but you can’t undergraze the area either."
The winning paddock was sown on February 10, 2010, with Bealey NEA2, a tetraploid perennial rye grass recommended for the upper North Island. Gareth chose NEA2 as it is one of three endophytes that protects against black beetle and it is recommended for his area.
However, testing revealed the endophyte NEA2 wasn’t present in the pasture, probably due to the seed not being stored in sufficiently cool conditions before sale. Without the NEA2 endophyte, good management practices were imperative to ensure survival of the grass. "We have wondered why it still did so well, but it was established properly which makes a big difference."
The paddock was sprayed for weeds shortly after germination, and irrigated regularly. As a result Gareth says he hasn’t had to worry about weed control. "Good pasture takes care of the weeds itself - they only become a problem when it opens up, and thanks to the irrigators that hasn’t really happened."
Gareth says he now uses the Forage Value Index to see what cultivars are rated as the most profitable for his area. "It's interesting to compare what works for us with what the industry experts are saying. At the end of the day you have to look at all the information that’s available to you and make your decision off that."
The Pasture Renewal and Persistence Competition is held annually in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions to acknowledge the top pasture managers and share their pasture renewal strategies. The two categories include best pasture renewed more than three winters ago, won by Gareth, and best first-year pasture, won by John Assen of Taupiri. Each won a $1000 pasture seed and herbicide package including seeds from Agriseeds and Agricom.