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In Australia, wool sheep graze a variety of pastures from native species in the drier pastoral zone, through to a mix of introduced crops, pasture legumes and grasses, and native species in the high rainfall and sheep/wheat zones.
Well-managed pasture requires smart, timely decisions on the frequency and intensity of grazing driven by plant growth, animal requirements and land management considerations. Grazing management substantially impacts on pasture persistence, productivity and utilisation. Grazing management is a farm management tool that can be used regularly to help achieve and maintain profitability by:
- Increasing the quantity and quality of pasture
- Manipulating the time availability of feed
- Reducing weed problems
- Ensuring pasture persistence
- Putting woolgrowers in control of pasture, animal production and clip quality
Whole Farm Systems Resources and Tools
AWI funds whole farm systems research to increase profit from integrated enterprises and pasture management. New knowledge, tools and practices help woolgrowers looking to improve whole-farm profitability, productivity and sustainability.
EverGraze aims to increase the profits of sheep and cattle enterprises by up to 50% and at the same time improve water management, use of perennials, biodiversity and soil health.
EverGraze regional packages now available
For the first time, the results and recommendations from EverGraze research have been presented as regionally relevant information packages to help producers across the high rainfall zone of southern Australia manage their pasture and livestock systems.
Within the regional packages, information is provided according to each region's soils, climate, pastures, livestock systems, and key production and environmental factors.
Increasing productivity and profitability in high rainfall grazing systems using the principles 'right plant, right place, right purpose, right management.' This video features case studies from WA (South Coast) and NSW (Southern Tablelands).
- Provided proof that high input livestock production systems in the high rainfall zone can be 50 per cent more profitable, while at the same time reducing groundwater recharge by 50 per cent.
- Provided proof that native pastures, either alone, or combined with improved pastures can deliver a 50 per cent increase in profit and a significant improvement in key, regionally important, natural resource indicators.
- Generated evidence that on-farm profitability can be achieved while improving environmental management.
- Ensured adoption of the EverGraze Principle and recommended practices on 3,600 properties across the high rainfall zone.
AWI supported the research and extension program to explore combinations of livestock, pastures and crops that increase profitability and improve the natural resource base in the sheep/wheat zone.
Grain & Graze developed projects in nine regions across Australia in consultation with regional producer groups, regional catchment organizations and state agencies.
|Perennial lucerne pastures; extended pasture phases and strategic farm management.|
and northern NSW)
|Short or long term pasture phases in a cropping system in profitable, environmental and social terms.|
Lachlan (central NSW)
|Pasture cropping/alley farming with saltbush/feed profiles and production options to address feed gaps.|
|Stubble management using livestock to reduce residual dry matter;
lucerne as a break crop and cereals into lucerne on raised beds to address a winter feed gap.
Native grasses in rotation with improved pastures to address catchment targets.
|Farmer consultation to determine the barriers to optimising a mixed farming system.
The impact of range of farming systems on the environmental, profit and social aspects of mixed farms.
How livestock can fit into cropping systems to increase whole farm profitability.
|Annual and perennial pastures to increase pasture and livestock productivity, and subsequent crop yields.|
|Addressing whole farm feed supply using grazing cereals to protect the resource base and increase species diversity.|
|Integrating perennial pastures into cropping systems.
Best-bet grazing management for perennial pastures that protect natural resources.
|Matching land use to land capability. Improved management of pasture and fodder crop phases.
Better integration of crop and livestock enterprises.
The nine regional projects were supported by national projects:
- Social research into the trade-offs influencing mixed farming decisions.
- Economics: the relationship between enterprise mix and the resilience of farming businesses.
- Feedbase: whole farm feed distribution and utilisation to reduce risk and maximise the sustainability of mixed farming systems.
Grain & Graze identified universal principles to help break decision-making down into less complex parts:
- A profitable mix of enterprises - land is farmed to its capability and crop:livestock ratios are adjusted according to shifts in their relative profitability.
- Maximum yields and productivity - focus on production drivers like highly efficient water use, healthy soils (high soil organic carbon, nutrient budgets) and matching lambing and calving to feed availability.
- Lower costs of production - low cost management solutions like nitrogen from legumes, crop rotations and grazing to control weeds and soil-borne diseases, integrated pest management to reduce pesticide use.
- Low relative overheads - leasing, contract labour and services, and economies of scale can reduce overhead costs.
- Increased sale prices - marketing and timing of sales can optimize sale prices.
- Managed risks - spread production risks from drought over different seasons via different commodities; have a drought response plan; use perennial plants to reduce recharge, maintain ground cover, prevent erosion and shelter stock.
- Timelines - do the right thing at the right time by planning critical activities in advance and setting dates for making decisions.
- Enjoyment - accept that mixed farming is complex and acknowledge your achievements in production and environmental care.
Grain & Graze developed new, whole-farm knowledge, tools and capacity for mixed farmers to identify what combination of livestock, pastures and crops will increase profitability and improve the natural resource base on which they farm.
Enrich modelling showed that a 'typical' farm in the target zone could increase whole-farm profit by 15 20 per cent by including 10-20 per cent perennial forage shrubs to:
- Reduce supplementary feeding during the summer/autumn feed gap.
- Allow grazing to be deferred on other parts of the farm at the break-of-season and more pasture to grow elsewhere.
Mixed forage systems incorporating native perennials could provide the answer to more sustainable and profitable livestock production and land management. Research indicates that shrubs can contribute up to third of the dry matter intake of sheep.
The Enrich team identified over 100 shrubs, trees and creepers native to the sheep/wheat or semi-arid zones that are palatable and have:
- Adequate plant growth rates, and re-growth after grazing.
- A growth form and height within the reach of sheep.
- Good nutritive value, particularly protein, fibre, mineral contents.
- Good digestibility.
- The ability to reduce methane emissions by ruminants like sheep.
- Bioactivity or intestinal worm control properties.
Enrich Forage Shrubs
Enrich Forage Shrubs: using forage shrubs to reduce risk in low to medium rainfall zone grazing systems.
Perennial Forage Shrubs providing profitable and sustainable grazing
Key practical findings from the Enrich project.
Perennial forage shrubs - from principles to practice for Australian farms
This resource covers important information about how to design and establish a shrub system on farm, what to plant where, and what to expect.
Nutritive Value of Rangeland Plants
AWI funded a review of the nutritive value of rangeland plants. The report compares feed quality data with actual animal performance from pastoral zone feeds, and documents pastoral woolgrowers' use of cost-effective, environmentally sustainable supplementation strategies.