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Beyond the Bale : September 2013
39 39 ON-FARM September 2013 BEYOND THE BALE The EverGraze website includes case studies from each region that tell the stories of how farmers have integrated change into their management, and the resulting impact on their businesses. Case study More perennials Better livestock Healthier catchments Key points www.evergraze.com .au • Optimised deferred grazing can reduce the seed set of annual species and encourage perennial species in steep hill pastures. • Rotational grazing is more labour intensive than set stocking, but can improve management skills through better stock and feed allocation. • The challenge is to have enough stock and big enough mob sizes to effectively use the feed, and the extra investment in water and fencing infrastructure. • Onion grass can be controlled by chemical and grazing management in native pastures. A combination of strategic and rotational grazing is proving a successful tactic for boosting native pasture densities and maintaining groundcover in steep hill country. EverGraze Supporting Site host Mark McKew runs a fine wool operation near Ararat in South West Victoria and has found greater flexibility in managing his livestock is an added advantage of the new grazing strategies. “ The results of our change in grazing management from set stocking to optimised deferred grazing and strategic rotational grazing are encouraging, even though I realise it is a long-term exercise to achieve major change,” Mark said. “I can see the potential for increasing stock productivity and our stock are in better condition throughout the year. They also produce more wool, which is cleaner and stronger along the staple. Managing hill country pastures — challenges and benefits Department of Agricultureand Food EverGraze® is a Future Farm Industries CRC research and delivery partnership: Farm info. • Producer: Mark and Ange McKew (EverGraze Supporting Site) • Location: Warrak, South West Victoria • Property size: 600 ha • Mean annual rainfall: 600 mm • Soils: Shallow loams • Enterprise: Merino ewes and wethers, fine wool, prime lambs and cattle. Mark and Ange McKew OPTIMISED DEFERRED GRAZING From December 2007, wethers rotated through the innovation paddocks. But in early spring 2008, Mark increased grazing pressure when annual grass weeds set seed. Then he de-stocked the paddocks as the perennials started to set seed during late spring to mid-January. This crash grazing, with stocking rates as high as 28 DSE/ha, allowed him to target annual grass weeds such as silver grass. There was still sufficient ground cover when he removed the sheep four weeks later. Stock returned to the paddocks for a week during late summer to provide some soil-seed contact. This promoted the germination of the newly-dropped native grass seed. Following the initial optimised deferred grazing during spring 2008, sheep rotationally grazed the paddocks after the autumn break during 2009. Sheep grazed each paddock for about 7–10 days and were removed for 5–6 weeks. PERSISTENCE “The native perennials have persisted well to date in all six paddocks in the rotation,” Mark said. “There has been a marked increase in perennial coverage and more feed compared with the control paddock. “The capeweed has all but disappeared, probably as a result of low nutrient levels and rotational grazing, although onion grass is still a problem. “Between June 2008 and 2010 the control paddock had a higher stocking rate, but there was between 50 per cent and 120 per cent more feed in the innovation paddock.” After reviewing stocking rates and feed- on-offer in the innovation paddock, Mark planned to increase grazing pressure during spring 2010. However the wet conditions made managing spring feed difficult and he couldn’t maintain high enough stocking rates. Plus his solar pump and panels were stolen, so he stopped rotational grazing to allow access to the only dam in the paddock. “Despite the challenges, the results have shown we can increase the perennial pasture component and maintain groundcover,” Mark said. “It also demonstrated that an increase in feed-on-offer delivers potential productivity benefits. But we need to weigh up the extra infrastructure costs for fencing and water on the hill country and the cost of additional stock.” NEW STRATEGY FOSTERS A KEEN EYE “In the past, our sheep often lacked condition at shearing in August – but the new grazing strategy keeps stock in better condition year round and offers greater marketing options,” Mark said. “While the regular stock moves are labour intensive, they allow us to closely monitor pasture and animals. I can quickly adjust numbers to improve native pasture content, maintain groundcover and increase pasture utilisation. “And through more regular monitoring, rotational grazing also helps us stay on top of flystrike.” More information: Refer to the full eight-page case study, including economic analysis, on www.evergraze.com.au Smar t Innovation s Simple Solution s www.perkinz.com.au HAS JUST GOT EASY “It’s just so much easier on a CrutchMaster” ALEX DIREEN CALL NOW 1-800-750-584 Save Time Save Money Save Your Back EBM1001 EBM 1001 CrutchMaster Press Ad 200x128_ƒ.indd 1 4/12/13 5:08 PM