NARF Flood Recovery Update 24 Feb (day 5)
The NARF farm has been significantly affected by flooding from cyclone Gabrielle. Below is some commentary on the flood impact and management steps we have taken to minimise the impact on the farms and the research project.
SITUATION & CURRENT MANAGEMENT
- Almost 90% of the farm went underwater. A flooded cow shed meant cows missed milking for 48 hours. The farm team have done a great job in minimising the disruption. We are currently milking cows once-a-day to maintain body condition while we get pastures back into good condition.
- Cows been receiving some pasture throughout, with PKE and baleage as needed. We are thankful to our neighbour who has donated some paddocks for us to use during this time. Plenty of baleage on hand.
- The individual trial farm structure has been disbanded for at least a few weeks while the farm gets back on its feet, at this stage we are planning to have the individual farms restarted by April at the latest. The main objective is to ensure that there is minimal effect on next season. Fortunately for our research study, we have around three quarters of this season behind us so have a good understanding of what the full season would have looked like if this flood event had not occurred.
- The water has receded, however much of the farm was inundated for 3 or more days resulting in significant pasture damage on around 60% of the farm. Kikuyu and white clover are showing signs of life in most areas, however ryegrass, tall fescue and cocksfoot pastures have proved less resilient with total death in many areas.
- As the water has receded, we have got straight in and mown off silted pasture. In some cases where silt was minimal we have grazed first before mowing. We see removal of this dead and silt laden vegetation important to get quality pasture back as soon as possible. Warm moist conditions mean kikuyu growth will be high as it recovers.
- The local contractor has baled up the worst of the kikuyu trash to get it off the paddocks and allow new pasture to come through and provide good conditions for under-sowing. This trash will be dumped or sold/donated for mulch, though another cost we considered the benefits of trash removal worthwhile.
- We are currently under-sowing the tall fescue and cocksfoot pastures that were badly affected on the Alternative Pastures farm. This is happening as soon as soil conditions are OK, trying to get these up and running asap and beat any weed flush.
- We are also under-sowing some of the badly affected kikuyu pastures with Italian ryegrass, as is our normal regime during autumn. We don’t normally start this under-sowing until late March, however we saw an opportunity to get these seeds in the ground while the kikuyu has been ‘flood shocked’. This holds some risk as it is unknown whether the kikuyu is suppressed enough to not outcompete the seedlings in coming months.