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Beyond the Bale : June 2013
38 38 September 2010 BeYoNd the BaLe 38 on-farm Facing drought and in need of sheep feed, Kerran Glover did what some people would consider in a cropping area a risky move – putting sheep into his barley crop. Since the 2006 drought, Kerran has rotationally grazed each barley crop, allowing him to better utilise feed with high stocking rates for short periods – a practice which has also financially benefited his sheep enterprise through increased wool cut and lamb sales. “In the 2006 drought we had no feed, so I put the sheep into a barley crop,” Kerran said. “Prior to harvest, I inspected the crops and I saw I had just as much grain in the grazed crop as the non-grazed crop.” Kerran farms 2462 hectares with his wife Melanie at Lock in the centre of the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia. They run 950 Merino and Merino/Dohne cross ewes and crop 1890 hectares. As part of the cropping program they sow 50 hectares of either barley/vetch or oats/ vetch, which is then cut for hay and later fed to the sheep. “Rotationally grazing our barley crops gives the medic pastures and other feed a chance to establish and bulk up before we need to graze it,” Kerran said. “It also allows us to stretch out our feed reserves until the fast facts l Mixed farmers Kerran and Melanie Glover from Lock, South Australia rotationally graze their barley crop, allowing high stocking rates and ultimately increased wool cut and lamb sales. l rotationally grazing the barley crops gives their medic pastures and other feed a chance to establish and bulk up before it is grazed. l A recent benchmarking exercise conducted by the Lock Sheep Management group, which is supported by AWI’s SheepConnect SA grower network, highlighted the financial benefits of rotational grazing to the Glovers. stubbles are then available after harvest.” With a 350mm annual rainfall, Kerran needs to manage two feed gaps – at the end of summer/autumn before the break and, then at the end of spring into summer. “We lamb our crossbred Dohne/Merino ewes, mated to White Suffolks, in mid-April and our Merinos in mid-May, so having the cereals for grazing makes sure that the ewes have access to the best feed, and helps us to address the feed gaps.” Kerran puts the sheep into the cereal crop when tillers start to form to ensure the plants are well anchored to prevent crop damage by grazing livestock pulling seedlings out of the soil. ImProVIng tHe sYstem This year Kerran plans to rotationally graze the cereal crops with weaned lambs or ewes (post weaning). Kerran runs bigger mob sizes when rotationally grazing cereals – up to 600 ewes on 40 hectare paddocks – to increase feed utilisation. “Even though we increased our stocking rate and decreased our paddock size, I think we could gain even more, especially more even grazing if we reduced our paddock size even further, to 10 to 15 hectare allotments.” Kerran will be trialing an electric Rappa fencing system this year to divide up his 40 hectare paddocks into the smaller sized allotments. The sheep will then rotationally graze for 5-7 days before moving to the next area. Water will be provided to the sheep by a portable water cart and poly water troughs. rotatIonaL grazIng PaYs Kerran is an active member of the Lock Sheep Management group which is supported by Grain & Graze 2, Eyre Peninsula Natural Resource Management Board and AWI’s South Australian grower network SheepConnect SA. A recent benchmarking exercise conducted by the group, highlighted to Kerran the financial benefits that rotational grazing gave his sheep enterprise. “Over winter, the stocking rate is 7.7 DSE per winter grazed hectare, which is almost double the district average,” Kerran said. “If we weren’t rotational grazing, we would have to halve our sheep numbers as we just wouldn’t have any hope of maintaining them. That would impact on our bottom line through reduced lamb sales and wool cut.” Kerran routinely achieves 112 per cent lambing, produces 2.6 lambs per winter-grazed hectare and cuts 23kg/ha greasy wool. “Rotational grazing gives us options. When others in the district may be running out of feed and having to sell off stock, we have the ability to hang on and wait for markets or feed issues to turn around, which means more money in our pocket.” groUnDcoVer BenefIts Maintaining adequate ground cover is also an important issue, especially in paddocks that are dominated by light dune-swale country at high risk of wind erosion. “I also want to set up electric fencing on the lighter soils to stop the sheep from camping here and hopefully letting the feed get established and stop drift issues,” Kerran said. “At this time of year, we also put our hoggets into confinement feeding to maintain condition and ensure the best feed is kept for the stock that need it the most, like the lambing ewes.” gettIng It rIgHt Even though Kerran has been rotationally grazing now for six to seven years, he still believes he can improve his grazing system with additional improvements in feed utilisation. “I really see the benefits of what we are doing. If we can continue to get the best out of our sheep, while maintaining our groundcover, then that makes all the effort worthwhile.” More information: Ian McFarland, SheepConnect SA, 0437 659 353 or www.sheepconnectsa.com.au June 2013 BeYoNd the BaLe Gains through rotational grazing