HOW TO USE THIS ONLINE MAGAZINE
by clicking the arrows at the side of the page.
by clicking anywhere on the page. A slider will appear, allowing you to adjust your zoom level.
and move the page around when zoomed in by dragging the page.
and return to the original size by clicking on the page again.
by entering text in the search field and click on "In This Issue" or "All Issues" to search the current issue or the archive of back issues
a PDF of this magazine.
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
a page via email, Facebook, Twitter and more.
TO VIEW PREVIOUS EDITIONS
, click the
button at the bottom of the screen.
Beyond the Bale : March 2015
ON FARM • Rob and Lauren Grylls of Bencubbin in Western Australia believe their Merino sheep flock underpins the overall profitability of their mixed sheep and cropping business, reducing production risk and guaranteeing cash flow. • They credit much of their business’s success to the use of saltbush and other perennial shrubs and grasses for grazing during the summer and autumn feed gap. Forage shrubs are fast becoming an important tool to bridge the dry summer and autumn sheep grazing systems feed gap, particularly in marginal farming areas. For farmers Rob and Lauren Grylls from Bencubbin, 275 km north-east of Perth in Western Australia, perennial shrubs, such as saltbush, are an integral part of their mixed sheep and cropping enterprise. “Using perennial forage shrubs are not only environmentally sensible, but it’s economically important to our businesses as well,” Rob said. For many farmers in Western Australia’s eastern wheatbelt, 2014 was a below average year for grain production and profitability. Much of the area is considered marginal, often receiving less than 200mm for the growing season. Rob believes his 3200 Merino sheep flock underpins the overall profitability of his business, reducing his production risk and guaranteeing cash flow. “We had a really good year with our sheep and wool in 2014, against a below average year for our grain production,” Rob said. “For the first time ever we achieved the clip of the week at the wool sale and when we sold our lambs in December we received the top sale for Merino lambs.” Rob credits much of this success to the use of saltbush and other perennial shrubs and grasses for grazing during that summer and autumn feed gap. “We will generally have two grazing opportunities, one in summer, and one in autumn. This allows the shrubs to re-generate for a few months in between.” PLANTING THE SHRUBS Rob and Lauren first began planting saltbush on unproductive saline land almost 20 years ago. Since seeing the benefits of saltbush grazing on wool and lamb production, Rob has now expanded his forage shrubs to include weeping tagasaste and rhagodia along with perennial grasses. “We had quite a lot of salt on one farm, and I started there with trees and saltbush, and now I’m going out into the paddocks to increase the area that I can use, and I’ll keep doing it where I can,” he said. In the past couple of years, Rob has planted saltbush and tagasaste in rows with a 56-metre gap to suit his cropping program. He estimates that only 10-15 per cent of the paddock is planted to shrubs. “This has really worked well, particularly in the wind affected sandy paddocks and I’ll be planting another 80 hectares this year,” he said. “The shrubs have made the land a lot more secure and less vulnerable to the wind, and there has been no negative edge effects on my crop production from the rows in the paddock.” Dependant on summer rainfall, Rob will also plant perennial grasses between the shrub rows to increase grazing potential during the hot months. TRIALLING RHAGODIA This year, Rob will participate in a Wheatbelt NRM trial of rhagodia, which, while less palatable than other forage shrubs, has the potential benefit of being anthelmintic, meaning it may contribute to a reduction of worm infestation in sheep. “I’m planting 12,000 seedlings of rhagodia and I won’t be fencing them off like the other saltbush plantations, to see if they can survive under normal 12 month grazing conditions,” Rob said. “They will initially receive six to eight months of non-grazing before I put the sheep in on them next year. “Since rhagodia isn’t as palatable as other forage shrubs I’m interested to see just how much grazing they can take.” PROFITABILITY Rob believes there is a direct impact on the profitability of his farming business as a result of grazing his sheep flock on the perennial forage shrubs. “I’ve seen a direct improvement in the volume of the wool and the wool tensile strength, as a result of grazing the sheep on these forage shrubs,” Rob said. “There has also been an improvement in the finished lamb for market and I’ve seen improvements in lambing survival rates and lamb health as a result of the forage shrub grazing.” He said CSIRO and UWA research had shown a 10 per cent increase in wool growth by grazing salt bush. This response is, remarkably, not only in the adult sheep grazing saltbush, but also a persistent response over years in offspring born from ewes that grazed saltbush during pregnancy. “I’ve definitely seen this on my property. I’m going to keep going with my planting program. I think it’s part of adapting to climate change, with perennials not as affected by drought as annual pastures.” MIXED ENTERPRISES Mixed farmer Rob Grylls from Bencubbin in WA believes there is a direct impact on the profitability of his farming business as a result of grazing his sheep flock on perennial forage shrubs. MERINOS SUPPORT