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Pugging and compaction

Pugging and compaction leave soils less productive. High stock densities combined with prolonged rainfall leave Waikato region soils vulnerable to pugging and compaction. This can be minimised by careful stock and land management.

Soil damage from pugging On this page: What is pugging?, What is compaction?, Why it’s a problem in the Waikato, Minimising pugging and compaction

What is pugging?

When stock intensively trample wet soil, the soil aggregates are broken down, and spaces (pores) in the soil are reduced. This phenomenon is called pugging.

Pugging causes:

  • poor drainage – the soil will stay softer and wetter making it more susceptible to further pugging
  • poor plant growth – a reduction in pasture yield
  • greater fertiliser requirements
  • more topsoil and contaminant runoff to waterways.

What is compaction?

Soils become compacted when under pressure from machinery (such as tractors or haulers) or livestock. Compaction has similar effects to pugging.

Areas with high water tables (for example Hauraki, Netherton and Te Kowhai), clay soils or intensive stocking rates are at higher risk of pugging and compaction.

Why it’s a problem in the Waikato

Farming is very important to the Waikato region's economy. The Waikato region has the highest number of dairy farms in the country and one of the largest concentrations of dairy cattle in the world.

Outdoor grazing occurs all year round. During strip feeding in winter, stock numbers can reach 300 to 600 cows per hectare. Prolonged rainfall and wet soil conditions, combined with high stocking density on paddocks, provide the ideal conditions for soil damage from pugging and soil compaction.

Severe pugging and compaction leads to more topsoil and contaminant runoff to waterways. Find out about the impacts of runoff to our water from nutrient enrichment in our lakes and rural runoff to the Waikato River.

Minimising pugging and compaction

  • Graze wetter paddocks before the wetter part of the season.
  • Good pasture cover gives better protection against pugging – build pasture cover leading in to the wet season.
  • Graze land that is at risk of pugging with light stock.
  • Use the farm bike rather than heavy tractors.
  • Vary the depth of cultivation annually – to avoid forming a plough pan.
  • Avoid working the soil when it is wet.