Wintering advice

Wintering is a significant cost to all farmers across Southland and Otago, on average making up 20-25% of farm working expenses for dairy farmers in particular.

We are interested in the environmental impacts of wintering, particularly the loss of nitrate to groundwater via leaching, and the loss of phosphorus and sediment to surface water via overland flow. 

Feeding stock on a winter crop or grass behind an electric fence results in bare, often pugged soil, with concentrated amounts of effluent on the soil surface. Rainfall and the resultant overland flow can transport sediment and effluent into drains and waterways. This results in the loss of valuable topsoil which can silt up drains and affect tile outfalls, as well as increasing the number of bugs and pathogens in waterways.

Intensive winter grazing rule

Environment Southland has a rule regarding intensive winter grazing to help minimise the effects of this practice on water quality.

  • During intensive winter grazing (1 May to 30 September) stock must be kept at least 3 metres away from
    the edge of water.
  • Stock access to watercourses under less intensive stock grazing is only permitted if there is no significant devegetation of the river bed or banks, and water quality standards are not breached.   

What can I do to comply with the rule?

The simple and cost-effective solution is the use of electric fencing and the retention of a filtering buffer zone beside waterways.

Farmers need to ask themselves "where is water going to exit my crop paddock during heavy rain?" The answer will identify the critical source areas in the paddock which will carry overland flow. A wide buffer zone can be incorporated into these exit points and protected by electric fencing when break-feeding the crop. This ungrazed riparian margin will help trap sediment and nutrients within the paddock, improving water quality and saving farmers money in the long run.

More information

For more information on good winter grazing management practices, read our Preparing for Winter factsheet.

For more details on the intensive winter grazing rule, read our intensive winter grazing rule factsheet.

For more information on the effects of wintering, take a look at the report The impacts of animal wintering on water and soil quality.

Visit the AgResearch website to read about the positive effects of good management wintering practices.

Visit the DairyNZ website page on Southern Wintering Systems.

Page reviewed: 05 Dec 2016 3:11pm