Diversified pastures at the front line of climate change in Northland: farmers experiences, new directions and wider implications for other parts of the country


  • Kieran McCahon DairyNZ
  • Allister McCahon Farmer, Northland Diversified Forages Group
  • Gavin Ussher Clover Consultancy, Northland Diversified Forages Group




annual clovers, Dactylis glomerata, Lolium perenne, pasture persistence, summer-dry


The persistence of both perennial ryegrass and white clover is challenged under summer-dry conditions. Future climate change projections indicate greater incidence and severity of summer moisture stress for many regions in New Zealand, and therefore, greater pressure on our traditional pasture base. The ‘Northland Diversified Forages Project’ aimed to identify alternative pasture species that provide an advantage in terms of dry matter yield, quality and/or timing of growth within a summer-dry environment, with a particular focus on legumes. A series of mown-plot trial and paddock demonstrations were established across a range of soil types to assess the potential of a wide variety of forage species. Perennial ryegrass and white clover both failed to persist, comprising less than 25% of the sward within 3 years of establishment. Cocksfoot demonstrated potential as a more persistent alternative to perennial ryegrass. However, whilst a range of legumes were successful at increasing the proportion of legume in the sward and total yield in the first year, significant challenges were identified in maintaining functional legumes across multiple years. This raises questions around whether we currently have the right species in New Zealand to adapt to a changing climate.






Resilient Pastures Symposium 2021