Ground cover is a key factor in helping paddocks bounce back after a dry spell, but when is the right time to take your stock off? This was the topic of discussion at a drought resilience workshop conducted by NSW Local Land Services and Soils For Life at Anthony and Rebecca Nichols' mixed farming operation, Tumulla, Coolac. The operation took part in the federal government's Future Drought Fund, which was a collaboration between LLS, Soils for Life and the Australian University Sustainable Farms team. LLS drought adoption officer Geoff Minchin, Temora, discussed how to best use containment pens to manage ground cover, which could play a vital part in ensuring paddocks progressed faster after dry periods. Producers should consider using confinement lots once ground cover fell to about 80 per cent, he said. "Particularly over a large area of your farm, because once you lock stock up, if it stays dry for another three months, those ground covers are going to keep reducing until you get rain," Mr Minchin said. "You can say we will graze until 70pc and then we'll lock everything up, but if you don't get rain, your ground cover is going to continue to deteriorate over time until you do get it - so I'd start early." A simple tool to measure ground cover was a pasture square, or a similar square frame, where the producer could carry out a visual estimate of the ground cover within the area. "You make a little square out of our ruler and you might go 10 or 20 paces out in the paddock, thrown it down and do a visual estimate of how much ground cover you're seeing," Mr Minchin said. "You do a transect across 10, 20 spots, and just get a gauge of where that ground cover is sitting across the paddock. "It's all a matter of estimating how much ground cover you can see in that square, once you've done that a few times you get your eye in." Mr Minchin said when it came to using the containment pens, producers should prioritise which stock needed to go in first. "If you're going into a dry period, the thing people don't get sometimes is you don't have to lock everything up at once," Mr Minchin said. "You just need to start reducing the pressure on your paddocks. "So it might be weaners or young stock, you might bring them off first and reduce your stocking rate for the rest of the property." This was also when producers could carry out procedures like early weaning. "It's just a matter of taking pieces out of your inventory over time and don't make those decisions too late," Mr Minchin said.