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Cattle Treading On Wet Soils Cuts Productivity

Thursday, 14 February 2002


 

New research has shown that as much as 60% of potential pasture growth can be lost after cattle treading on wet soils. According to Keith Betteridge, a researcher at AgResearch, Palmerston North the soil and plant damage created by cattle treading can significantly reduce productivity, often without farmers realising it.

Says Mr Betteridge; “We have found that soils lose between 30-60% of potential pasture growth in the 3-9 month period after prolonged wet weather and a severe treading event. Soil health and plant growth depends on good soil aeration. The soil compaction and pugging created by treading results in reduced plant growth, as plants are less able to access and utilise soil nutrients. Also, as pugged soils drain more slowly they remain colder for longer and this also slows growth. Perhaps the greatest impact though, is the loss of plant tillers and until new tillers grow to replace those killed, growth will be restricted.”

The research was presented at the Dairy Farm Soil Management Conference currently underway at Massey University.* The focus of the conference is effective and sustainable soil management, in particular strategies to maintain our clean green image. Mr Betteridge’s research indicates that by reducing treading damage to soils and pasture there is likely to be a decrease in fertiliser wastage.

Research looking at the issue of treading over the last 5 years has led to AgResearch producing a “Ready Reckoner Guide” which will soon be available to farmers to assist in better management of pastures during wet weather.

Mr Betteridge says; “On the spot calculations can be made by farmers enabling them to protect their pasture by putting cows onto a holding pad or onto the cowshed yard after a set period of time grazing.”

The “Ready Reckoner Guide” will undergo evaluations on a group of Palmerston North farms from June this year and in 1-2 years time Dr Betteridge hopes it will be more widely available.

Dr Hilton Furness, Technical Director of Fert Research says; “The overall effect on dairy farm productivity can be quite extreme, so by increasing farmers’ knowledge of this problem the fertiliser industry aims to maximise production outputs without unnecessary and potentially harmful nutrient wastage.”
Mr Betteridge’s presentation was entitled “Cattle Treading on Wet Soils: Implications for Pasture Growth and Soil Physical Condition.” Treading research was also presented by Graeme Ward, a Dairy Research Officer with the south west Dairy Research Unit of the Dept of Natural Resources and Environment in South West Victoria, Australia. His paper was entitled “Research and Experiences in Treading and Wet Soil Management in Victoria.”

* Conference Details

New research has shown that as much as 60% of potential pasture growth can be lost after cattle treading on wet soils. According to Keith Betteridge, a researcher at AgResearch, Palmerston North the soil and plant damage created by cattle treading can significantly reduce productivity, often without farmers realising it. The Dairy Farm Soils Management Conference is being held at Massey University in Palmerston North from February 13-14th, and is organised by the Fertilizer and Lime Research Centre, Massey University and The New Zealand Fertiliser Manufacturers’ Research Association (Fert Research).

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