Modelling to develop recommendations for managing variability

Pasture utilisation is widely regarded as a key driver of profitability for the red meat and wool industries in southern Australia (Lodge et al. 2012). On-farm, this means increasing animal intake of green pasture growth. Using more of the green pasture grown throughout the year is often the most cost effective way to lift the productivity of a grazing enterprise. However, in grazing systems having a constant stocking rate, little attempt is made to increase intake in response to increased pasture growth within seasons and between years and so pasture utilisation is traditionally low. This situation often occurs in northern NSW, where native perennial grass-based pastures are dominant, and tend to be stocked year-round at about their winter carrying capacity, and under utilisation is manifested by the carryover of a large amount of dead standing material from year to year.

Survey results (Lodge 2011) indicated that climate variability and droughts (as opposed to climate change) were major issues for producers for both profit and natural resource management (NRM). An analysis of annual weather records (1882-2004) for Barraba indicated that although the mean annual rainfall was 692 mm it ranged from 326 to 1174 mm/year and was on average 99 mm higher in the second half of the last century compared with the first half. However, there is little documented information in this region on past climate variability and its likely effect on animal production.

This study used pasture and livestock modelling to demystify the concept of pasture utilisation and so provide benchmark values for different pastures and livestock enterprises to increase profitability. Full details of the modelling, results and recommendations are provided in the key message: Variable climate, flexible approach.

Spring 2009 showing Merino ewes and lambs grazing native perennial grass pastures
Spring 2009 showing Merino ewes and lambs grazing native perennial grass pastures
Ungrazed lucerne pasture
Ungrazed lucerne pasture

Further Information

 

Research

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