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Emily King
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ARTICLES >> Livestock Articles

Spelling paddocks over summer- good for your pastures and your pocket

Posted by Bestprac on Sep 05 2012

Nicole Sallur, Extension Officer, Agri-Science Queensland, DAFF

“I look after my pastures, the pastures look after my stock and my stock look after me!”

Just like any vehicle, pastures need some regular repair and maintenance to keep them running at their best. Continuous grazing year after year puts a lot of pressure on the preferred grasses and they can be lost from your paddocks. If left unchecked, this leads to patches that are overgrazed, increased erosion and less feed. Spelling over summer or the wet season stops this from happening and restores the pastures to a more productive state. Read below to discover 10 key points about spelling.

  1. Wet season spelling is the cheapest and most effective pasture renovation option available. It allows the plant to replenish its essential reserves, set seed and allow seedling recruitments.
  2. Destocking paddocks during the dry season or failed wet seasons is not the same as spelling. Whilst destocking during periods of little or no pasture growth protects the soil and remaining grasses, it doesn’t allow grasses to increase their root reserves, produce seed or new seedlings to establish.
  3. Typically, pastures are spelled after the first significant rainfall event (more than 50mm over 3 days) for at least 6-8 weeks (until the middle or end of the rainy season). In cases where it is difficult to shift cattle at the break of season, paddocks can simply be spelled from the last muster.
  4. If your goal is to improve land condition, then spelling for the whole wet season is recommended. This gives the palatable plants a chance to rebuild their root reserves for next year and also to set seed. It also allows new seedlings to get established without being grazed off.
  5. For severely run down pasture, spelling for the whole wet season and successive wet seasons is needed.
  6. Obviously if the goal is to save feed or fuel for later in the year then livestock needs to be kept out of the paddock until that grass is required.
  7. Rule of thumb – ‘Keep an eye on your country and once seed is set and starting to fall, livestock can go back on’. The amount of time this takes will vary with the season.
  8. The benefits of spelling, however, will only occur with complete destocking of a paddock and will not be obtained through lighter stocking rates. This is because livestock will preferentially graze the good grasses (perennial, palatable and productive) despite other feed on offer.
  9. Livestock from the spelled paddock need to go somewhere. If not being moved off the property, room has to be found in other paddocks. To minimise the risk of overgrazing these ‘load up’ paddocks, pay close attention to paddocks that genuinely have spare grazing capacity and/or contain resilient and productive land types.
  10. Try and spell some country every year.

Leading Sheep is holding two spelling field days:

16th October at “Victoria Downs” Morven
17th October at “Laguna” Augathella
RSVPs to these days to Nicole Sallur by Thursday 11th October. 07 4654 4220 or mobile 0427 603 241


Last changed: Sep 06 2012



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