How to improve your pasture for free

Deferred grazing is an easy way to rejuvenate pasture.

Words: Nadene Hall

It sounds complicated, but deferred grazing is a good way to help pasture quality.

A paddock or paddocks are rested from mid-spring until late summer, allowing perennial ryegrass to set seed, and form new tillers.

The pasture is then grazed so that young ryegrass seedlings and new ryegrass tillers have access to light.

Select 10-15% of your block to defer, which might be just one paddock for many people. The best ones to choose:

■ a paddock with a lot of good quality pasture species, eg ryegrass and clover, but where the ryegrass isn’t performing well;
■ not a stock corridor;
■ hasn’t been deferred in the last 2-3 years.

Stop grazing the chosen area from mid-spring when pasture is just starting to send up seed heads, until the end of summer or early autumn, after seeds have dropped. It will look ugly, but don’t be put off.

Break feed the deferred paddock with cattle or sheep in early autumn. Be aware that pasture utilisation could be as low as 50%.

Graze lightly again before winter.


1. Maintains pasture quality over the whole farm. By removing some paddocks from the grazing round, the stocking rate increases over the rest of the farm, and stock graze spring surpluses more efficiently.

2. Increases pasture persistence. Resting perennial ryegrass and other species from grazing allows it to go to seed, creating more plants, and existing plants produce new tillers. It makes the pasture more dense and can increase its persistence.

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3. Provides a good area of feed at the end of summer. This is particularly useful in drought years, and you avoid the cost and workload of buying and feeding out supplementary feed.

4. Helps clover too. Other research has shown that when deferred pasture is grazed in late autumn, clover content increases. Read more at Agre Search.

NZ Lifestyle Block This article first appeared in NZ Lifestyle Block Magazine.
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