Grazing Unsuccessful Crops

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

By Michael Wurst, PIRSA


Key points

  • Grazing management is essential to ration feed and maintain ground cover.
  • Do a feed budget.
  • Livestock management is about monitoring livestock condition, soil cover and pasture growth.
  • Check chemical grazing withholding periods, before grazing.
  • Rotationally graze paddocks using large mobs for short periods rather than small mobs grazing for longer periods.


Despite some rain in early August, crop and pasture growth has been slow. In areas that have missed out on good rains, crops and pastures will quickly become stressed as temperatures increase. In certain areas, even with further rain, there is likely to be limited pasture produced.

Cereal crops with poor and/or patchy emergence will have low grain yield potential. Some crops were grazed in late June/early July, with the hope that rain in July would allow them to recover. However, recovery has been slow in particularly in those areas which have received minimal rain.

 The question is: do you continue to graze these crops to maintain livestock, or leave them to be harvested or grazed as a standing crops?

Grazing Green Crops

This is an option, however there are a number of things to consider.

  • What are your seed and feed grain requirements?
  • What is the quantity and quality feed value of the crop for livestock?
  • What is the economics of grazing compared to harvesting for grain?
  • It is advisable to fence off bare areas, particularly sand hills to stop livestock camping on these areas and allow them to stabilise.
  • Feed livestock hay before putting them into a green crop and provide supplementary feed while grazing to reduce the risk of metabolic diseases.
  • Rotationally graze crops, using a high stock density for short periods. With large paddocks consider sub dividing with either electric fencing or cyclone. A high stock density reduces wastage, prevents camping and ensures more even grazing over the paddock.
  • Undertake a feed budget by estimating the amount of dry matter available from the crop (kg dry matter/ha) and determine how long it can be grazed for. As a rule of thumb one dry sheep equivalent (DSE) will eat 1 kg of green dry matter per day. Do not over graze and ensure enough ground cover remains.
  • Check the grazing withholding periods (GWP) of chemicals applied to the crop, before grazing. GWP is the minimum time between chemical application and harvest for stockfeed or grazing to ensure the maximum reside limit (MRL) and/or export grazing interval (EGI) are not exceeded. This is a legal requirement.
  • When grazing cereals continually supplement stock with a source of calcium, salt and magnesium and vaccinate for pulpy kidney prior to putting the stock on to the crop.
  • Grazing green crops will leave paddocks relatively bare and exposed for long periods to erosion risk, unless further rain allows crops to recover.

Grazing mature crops

Leave crops in more erosion prone paddocks to mature. Harvest the best areas and graze the remainder over summer as standing crop. This will increase the period that the soil is protected over summer.

Whilst crops may provide some feed, it is important that producers carefully plan and budget for their flocks supplementary feeding requirements for at least the next nine months.

For more information refer to: ‘Grazing cropped land’ (2016) booklet, available from the Grain and Graze3 website: