Managing winter pastures for a better spring

There’s only one thing worse than seeing a badly pugged pasture in the middle of winter, and that’s living with the result – lost growth and the cost to repair the damage in spring.


The price of treading and pugging is two-fold: immediate DM utilisation can drop by up to 40%, and future growth can be significantly compromised. In severe cases, pugging can completely kill a pasture.


The good news is that there are ways of managing this risk, so when spring comes, your pastures are ready to grow to their potential. Use these tips and pointers to protect your grass factory this winter, and remember the old saying, cows don’t pug paddocks – people do.


  1. Draw up a Wet Weather Management Plan and make sure everyone shifting stock on the farm understands your expectations and goals around paddock damage.
  1. Paddocks vulnerable to wet conditions should be grazed early, in case the weather turns against you later on. This is especially important for newly sown grass paddocks. They are your most valuable areas; they are also most at risk because they are not yet fully established and they must be protected for the coming seasons.
  2. When stock are on wet pasture, spread them out at a lighter stocking rate to help reduce damage.
  3. Don’t worry about post-grazing residuals when it’s wet. Concentrate on protecting your soils. Focus back on residuals when conditions are dry again.
  4. Use on-off grazing to minimise damage, in conjunction with a feed pad, yards etc.
  5. Create laneways within paddocks which are being break-fed, to limit treading damage to smaller areas.
  6. If you have a poor producing paddock destined for crop or pasture renovation this spring, consider using this as a sacrifice paddock. It’s not an ideal answer, but it will protect pastures over the rest of the farm.
  1. Have a repair plan in place, to restore productivity ASAP (e.g. August). Even with a good wet weather plan in place, cows have to be fed regardless of conditions, and our climate and farm systems mean it’s unlikely you’ll come through winter without incurring at least some damage to you pastures.


To repair pugging or treading, mark areas of damage on a farm map for the contractor or whoever will be sowing seed to fill the gaps. Colour code to differentiate between lesser damage (where seed just needs to be direct drilled to fill gaps) and more severe damage, where paddocks require levelling before direct drilling.


Repairing wet weather damage is a race between you and the weeds, and you have to win if you want to restore productive DM growth.