Soil and pasture management

Drought can have dramatic and long-term effects on your soil and pastures and can impact future production. When drought breaks, drought affected soils and pastures can potentially return to their normal state in time if given a little help.

Soil management

Maintaining adequate ground cover is not only important for pasture persistence and longevity, it is also vital for soil health, water infiltration and nutrient retention. Research has shown that erosion during drought-breaking rain can make up 90 per cent of the total soil loss in a 20–30 year cycle. See the Drought recovery guide for information on topsoil, soil nutrients and acid soils.


Pasture management

Retaining adequate pasture stubble helps ensure perennial grass crowns and stems survive drought and maximises recovery rates when it rains and drought recovery begins. Retention of adequate plant cover (stem and crowns) is important for the survival of most perennial grasses and legumes. Research on the Northern Tablelands showed that the survival of perennial grasses was significantly better where more than 1000 kg/ha of pasture stubble was retained.

Note that losses following prolonged dry conditions (where some green feed may be available) can be greater than the losses from severe droughts. Plants are more likely to cease growth altogether in severe drought, whereas in a ‘dry spell’, plants continue to grow and are grazed, depleting plant energy reserves and resulting in the death of weak plants.
See the Drought recovery guide for information on:

  • Species adaptation to drought
  • Introduced temperate perennial grasses
  • Introduced temperate perennial legumes
  • Tropical grasses
  • Native perennial grasses
  • Annual pastures


Grazing management following drought

Although livestock are often the focus of attention after drought, grazing management decisions should also consider pasture requirements, as a productive pasture base is necessary for a profitable business. Although destocking decisions during a drought often facilitate pasture rehabilitation, high feed prices and other pressures can mean that pastures are stocked too early after rains.

See the Drought recovery guide for information on:

  • Assessing pasture survival and density
  • Value and management of surviving pasture
  • When to graze
  • Resowing/cropping/ renovation options
  • Forage crop selection

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