Winter Management

The four stages of Winter Management

The four stages of winter forage grazing demonstrate that it requires year-round care to ensure good management.


Paddock selection and Planning

August to September


Block set-up

Early summer to pre-grazing


Crop grazing

April to August


Post grazing management

August to September

STAGE 1: Paddock Selection & Planning

Select Paddocks for Winter Forage Crops and Identify Risks

Paddock selection is critical and will facilitate or constrain future good management: Start thinking about mitigating environmental impacts as part of your planning for sowing feed crops now to save time and stress later.

Red Zones: Identify paddocks or areas of the farm which should never be used for winter forage crops. These include land prone to flooding, very steep paddocks with a waterway at the bottom or paddocks with limited access through a waterway which introduces risks of high stock concentrations around waterways.

Avoid crops in paddocks with waterways. If this is not possible, then you must plan buffer strips of adequate width in any crop paddock with a waterway. A buffer strip is an area of rough grass sown and established as a filter between a crop and a fenced waterway it is not the riparian margin streamside of a permanent fence.

Prepare a Written Winter Management Plan

Winter stock management is a year-round process involving a range of farm staff and contractors. A written winter management plan is essential, particularly where it involves various risk factors.

A plan need not be complicated and may be a simple farm map with wintering blocks, risks and mitigations identified with instructions for staff. E.g. Stack baleage here, graze from top of slope or standoff area. It is better to have a simple single map that can be accessed and understood by staff than a complicated plan than takes a lot of preparation but is never used.

A written plan is also evidence for FEP Auditors that the risks of winter management have been considered and appropriate mitigation measures have been identified and adopted.

From this year FEP Auditors will be asking to see your winter management plan if you are wintering stock.

A winter management plan should also identify any ‘Red Zone’ areas where the risks are so high that they should never be used for stock wintering, particularly on crops, such as areas prone to flooding.

The ideal time to write a winter management plan is right now, when the crops are being planned for the coming season. It will also add very little additional work to the normal crop planning process.

Winter Management Written Plan

Plan your Buffer Strips

A riparian margin that is part of the fenced off waterway is not considered a buffer strip or part of a buffer strip – a buffer strip is in addition to any riparian margin.

The use of rough grass margins or buffer strips next to waterways to trap sediment in run-off are an essential winter environmental risk management tool. However, they must be up to the job to be effective. When planning a buffer strip consider the following:

    • Any paddock adjacent to a waterway where there is a risk of run-off entering the waterway, must have a temporary rough grass buffer strip established between the fence line and the start of the crop.
    • To act as an effective filter a buffer strip should be established at the time the crop is sown and given time to grow into a thick dense sward. Cocksfoot is an ideal buffer strip species.
    • The width of the buffer strip should be proportional to the risk of run-off: on flat paddocks the strip should be not less than 2m, on slopes up to 10 degrees they should be not less than 5m and on steeper slopes they need to be of substantial width, more than 10m is likely to be needed to act as an effective filter.
    • Buffer strips should be fenced off temporarily while crops are being grazed and should not be grazed out until end of winter.

On low points in the paddock, areas prone to flooding or seasonal flowing waterways are known as Critical Source Areas (CSA) and additional protection is likely to be needed. These should be excluded from crops and left in pasture and/or fenced off temporarily in severe weather.

Critical Source Areas (CSA) will need extra protection from run-off.


Winter Management Image
This is not a buffer strip. A buffer strip is in addition to any riparian margin.
Winter Management Diagram

Consider how Crop Paddocks Will be Grazed and Plan Accordingly
    • Stock should be grazed from top of the slope to the bottom to allows ungrazed crop to act as a buffer strip and ensure most risky areas are grazed last. If this can’t be done then grass buffer strips will need to be proportionately wider, 20m or more.
    • Animal welfare may be a significant risk in severe events, and it may be difficult to provide adequate shelter, lying areas and sufficient volume of feed.
    • Consider whether you need to provide temporary water troughs to minimise animals congregating and minimise walking on wet muddy paddocks.
    • Do you have contingency options available to you for severe weather events as it is important to plan for these: Are there areas available to stand off stock? Have you got areas suitable for sacrifice paddocks?
      Is it worth stockpiling some fodder beet before winter to feed on sacrifice areas or standoff areas to minimise stock movement during severe weather?
    • Consider access. In very wet or snowy conditions, feeding roughage will be difficult with machinery and is likely to exacerbate soil damage and pugging. It may help to stockpile baleage in paddocks for extreme events.
Winter Management Tractor
Environmental Collective contacts:

Lucy Johnson – Environmental Manager
Phone 027 459 2303

Esther Gorton – Environmental Advisor
Phone 027 415 1923

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