Can a pasture-based alternative make a difference?
A team of AgResearch scientists, led by Invermay soil scientist Dr Ross Monaghan, is investigating whether a pasture-based alternative, supplemented with hay or baleage, will reduce nitrate leaching and paddock pugging (mud).
Both are harmful to soil health, water catchments and an animal’s welfare. Funded by the Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change Fund, the research programme is taking place on dairy farms in Otago and Southland.
While the goals of the project are multi-faceted, one of the primary aims is to determine whether dairy cattle can be grazed on winter pastures without them being churned into mud.
It will also explore whether bale litter - hay that animals use for bedding and insulation in colder winter months to help maintain their body temperature and energy, that would otherwise be wasted on keeping warm - helps the overall health of both the soil and an animal in New Zealand farming conditions.
The practice is already popular among advocates of regenerative farming in the United States.