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Beyond the Bale : December 2014
48 ON FARM An AWI-funded research trial carried out by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has provided knowledge of optimum grazing management options to boost production with the potential to lift long-term environmental gains. The project was developed from questions that came up in the EverGraze project, particularly from the farmer involvement in EverGraze Regional Group steering committee. The large-scale trial ran for three years, comparing rotational options with continuous grazing while exploring how to best manage stocking rates and paddock numbers for introduced and native pasture systems. The research was carried out at Orange Agricultural Institute with introduced pasture (cocksfoot, average rainfall 920 mm) and native-based pasture at Panuara (Microlaena and wallaby grass, average rainfall 810 mm). The Panuara site previously ran an EverGraze project. Rotational grazing options were assessed at an average cycle of 60 or 120 days between grazing in each paddock and a flexible period based on the growth stage of the plant (gross margins could not be developed for this treatment) and compared with continuous grazing. The introduced pasture site had a high stocking rate (averaging 13 DSE/ha) and a lower stocking rate (7 DSE/ha) comparing 15 and 30-paddock rotational grazing systems. The trial used Merino wethers. Intensive and wide-ranging measurements – including animal growth rates, condition scores, wool weight and micron, along with pasture quality and quantity – were taken. NSW DPI research agronomist Warwick Badgery said the trial has delivered solid facts that sheep and wool producers can use to improve their on-farm profitability. • NSW Department of Primary Industries researchers explored the optimum stocking rates, paddock numbers and rotation cues to increase sheep and wool production. • The trials were run on both native and introduced pastures, and were subject to the same challenging seasonal conditions farmers have faced over the previous two years. • Matching stocking rate to grazing management offered the greatest potential to boost production. There was a higher optimal stocking rate for intensive rotational grazing than continuous grazing. • The stand-out result from this study was that a fast rotation (with an average grazing cycle of 60 days) was the most profitable and sustainable at a high stocking rate (averaging 13 DSE/ha), while continuous grazing at a lower stocking rate (7 DSE/ha) was nearly as profitable and sustainable (Figure 1). Figure 1. Comparing the profitability (gross margin) and sustainability (maximum bare ground) of grazing management options for a simulated Merino x terminal sire system on a cocksfoot pasture at Orange. High and low stocking rates (HSR and LSR) were run with 15 and 30 paddock rotational grazing systems and continuous grazing (15 Pdk, 30 Pdk and Cont). The rotational grazing systems were run with slow (120 day grazing cycle) and fast (60 day grazing cycle) rotations. High stocking rate, fast rotations had the highest gross margins and maintained low levels of bare ground. The continuous grazing at low stocking rates performed nearly as well. These comparisons were made in 2012 and 2013, when there were failed springs. $280 $200 $120 Grossmargin($/ha) Maximum bare ground (%) 0 LSR Slow 30 Pdk LSR Slow 15 Pdk HSR Slow 30 Pdk HSR Slow 15 Pdk HSR Cont LSR Fast 30Pdk LSR Fast 15Pdk LSR Cont HSR Fast 30 Pdk HSR Fast 15Pdk 50 25 A large-scale AWI-funded grazing management trial has delivered the facts farmers need to boost productivity and secure healthy landscapes. BENEFITING FROM OPTIMUM GRAZING MANAGEMENT