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Beyond the Bale : Apr - May 08
4 PASTURES BEYONDTHE BALE Production boost from perennials A new approach to getting the most out of perennial pastures has the potential to lift livestock production by up to 50 per cent, while also helping the environment By Fiona Conroy T he EverGraze More Livestock From Perennials project is investigating how woolgrowers in the high-rainfall areas (more than 500 millimetres) can boost production by making greater use of perennial plants in the grazing system. Making lime pay its way Liming acid soils represents a significant investment for sheep and wool producers, and a key question has been 'How good - and when - is the return on investment?' With AWl funding, the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has developed a decision support tool to help wool producers calculate the payback period for lime application. The tool is based on 15 years' data from a long- term liming experiment known as MASTER (Managing Acid Soils Through Efficient Rotations) and is applicable in the 500 to 850-millimetre rainfall zone of southern NSW and northern Victoria. The new tool provides sheep and wool producers with some principles about when it will be economically feasible to apply lime to pastures. The economics of applying lime to country used for crop production are clear because the returns from the crop substantially reduce the payback period for the lime. However, now sheep and wool producers have a tool to assess the payback time for lime application for pasture production. Some of the plants being assessed in the program include native perennials, woody perennials, lucerne, chicory, summer-active perennial ryegrass, tall fescue and kikuyu. "We're aiming to develop new farming systems where the use of perennials in grazing systems lifts profitability by 50 per cent, while at the same time improving water The economic analysis was carried out with three scenarios: o Merino wether enterprise with one-fifth of wethers bought as replacements each year; o self-replacing Merino enterprise where wether lambs are sold at six months old and ewe hoggets are sold at 18 months old; and o prime lamb enterprise based on first-cross ewes and terminal meat rams with one-fifth of ewes bought as replacements each year. For a Merino wether enterprise, it is projected that the investment in lime will take about 15 years to pay for itself when the cost of lime is $70 a hectare (spread) and the price of wool is $6 a kilogram. As the price of lime decreases, and/or the price of wool management, biodiversity and soil health as added benefits of putting perennial pastures on farms;' says national EverGraze coordinator Geoff Saul. "The issues vary depending on the location, the soil type and the rainfall pattern. On the NSW slopes there are problems with annual pastures - summer storms can cause severe erosion - and increases, the investment will pay for itself faster. Changing from a Merino wether enterprise to a self-replacing Merino enterprise reduces the payback periods for lime application. When the lime price is fixed at $70/ha (spread) and the wool price (greasy wool) is fixed at $6/kg, the payback period is shortened to nine years, an improvement of six years compared with the Merino wether enterprise. The payback period is even shorter for a prime lamb enterprise.At the current commodity price, the payback period will reduce from 15 years when running Merino wethers to eight years when running prime lambs. - DR GUANGDI LI More information: www.wool.com.au/publications; Dr Guangdi Li, NSW DPI, 02 6938 1930
Feb - Mar 08
Jun - Jul 08 Supplement