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Victorian Resources Online - Do my pastures have good species composition?

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Pasture quality (high digestibility and protein content) is important for milk production. The composition and health of your pasture is one indicator of how well you are irrigating. In northern Victoria, preferred pasture species typically include perennial ryegrass and white clover. Other species include paspalum, which can provide valuable summer feed when well managed, and modern cultivars of tall fescue.

Unproductive and low quality species take up valuable space in pasture and contribute little to the herd’s diet. These species, more commonly known as “weeds”, include common couch grass, water couch (distichum), umbrella sedge, barnyard grass and rushes.

Good pasture will have the following characteristics:
  • High ryegrass and clover content (ryegrass+clover > 70 % of pasture present in spring);
  • Paspalum may be present but should be managed well over summer (grazed frequently to a suitable residual height); and
  • Weed content is low.
    A good, highly productive pasture

A poor pasture will have:
  • Low ryegrass and clover content (ryegrass + clover < 50 % of pasture present);
  • Paspalum is present but is not managed well over summer (allowed to get tall and rank before grazing); and
  • Weed content is high – a variety of species such as common couch grass, water couch (distichum), umbrella sedge, barnyard grass and rushes.

The presence of weeds is often a symptom of either poor irrigation layout or irrigation management. Poor irrigation timing, irrigation layout and surface drainage may result in:
  • A high percentage of paspalum in your pasture
  • The presence of waterlogging tolerant weeds such as sedge, rushes, couch; and
  • Poor pasture growth

If you have a high component of weeds in your pastures, you may want to assess your irrigation and drainage practices.

Talk to your dairy extension officer for further information.

    Poor pasture - don't waste water on it
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