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 : June 2015
ON FARM 49 Mixed crop and sheep farmers could potentially increase on-farm efficiency and profitability by introducing supplementary feed in grazed wheat crops to increase the dispersion of sheep and therefore their utilisation of the crop. This is the key finding in a thesis prepared by University of Western Australia (UWA) graduate Benita Moir for her Bachelor of Science (Agricultural Science). The research was carried out as part of an AWI-funded project with CSIRO aimed at increasing wool sheep in cropping zones and improving producers’ confidence in managing the impacts of sheep on cropland. Benita, who grew up on her parents’ sheep and cattle property at Narrikup near Albany, was announced as the WA Young Professionals in Agriculture winner for 2015, following her presentation of the thesis at an annual forum in March hosted by the Ag Institute Australia (WA Division). Benita was one of seven outstanding young WA professionals to deliver the findings of their tertiary agriculture research studies at the forum. “There has recently been renewed interest in crop grazing amongst mixed crop and sheep farmers, as a way of providing highly digestible sheep forage during early winter when demand for feed typically exceeds the supply from pastures,” Benita said. “Despite the benefits of crop grazing, its adoption has historically been relatively low, especially in the medium to low rainfall areas of the Western Australian wheatbelt, in part due to the perceived risk of uneven grazing of the crop which can lead to reduced yields in overgrazed areas. “As the effects of strategic supplementary feed placement on sheep distribution in a wheat crop had not previously been investigated, I wanted to examine – with my study supervisors Dr Ken Flower of UWA and Dr Dean Thomas of CSIRO – if supplementary feed would attract sheep from areas of high grazing intensity to under-utilised areas of a wheat crop, and thereby change their grazing distribution within a paddock.” The research was carried out on woolgrowers Simon and Tony York’s property at Tammin in the central wheatbelt of Western Australia, during June and July 2014 on the wheat cultivar Magenta. Two paddocks of wheat were initially grazed for two weeks by one-year-old Merino ewes without supplement. Then, plots of high (H), medium (M) and low (L) grazing intensity were selected using GPS tracking of the seven sheep in each paddock. A mineral supplement was then placed in half of the plots identified as low grazing intensity (LS). Sheep were then re-introduced and the paddocks grazed for another two weeks to determine if the supplement altered their grazing pattern. Crop biomass cuts and visual grazing score measurements were also taken throughout the experiment to support the GPS data. The results show that after the supplement was introduced, there was a fourfold increase in the number of GPS points in the LS plots and a decrease in H plots. Furthermore, there was no significant difference in grazing intensity between treatment plots after the supplement was introduced, indicating that grazing distribution became more uniform as a result of the supplement. However, the crop biomass and grazing score data did not confirm the GPS data, which Benita says might have been due to high variability in these data. Despite this, Benita says the results still suggest that the strategic inclusion of supplement in a grazed wheat crop will increase the dispersion of sheep and improve grazing uniformity of the crop lessening the risk of yield losses due to areas of concentrated grazing. “Mixed crop and sheep farmers could implement these findings by introducing a supplement when sheep are first placed on the crop, using their knowledge of where sheep typically tend to graze more heavily within a paddock,” Benita said. “Alternatively, farmers could utilise satellite imagery to observe vegetation differences throughout the paddock and then place supplements in areas where vegetation is greatest, which is where grazing intensity is lowest.” Having finished her degree, Benita is currently helping out on her family’s property at Narrikup. However she is hoping to pursue a career in agronomy, ideally in her beloved rural Western Australia. New research shows that the strategic placement of mineral supplements in a wheat crop can attract sheep from areas of high to low grazing intensity, thereby creating more uniform grazing across the paddock and hence better crop utilisation. SUPPLEMENTS AID DISTRIBUTION OF GRAZING Benita Moir (right) and her project supervisor Dr Dean Thomas of CSIRO (centre), with research assistant Miranda MacIntyre of CSIRO (left), at the project site on Simon and Tony York’s property at Tammin in the central wheatbelt of Western Australia.