Management trial uncovers greener pastures for region's graziers

AMONG the lush green autumn pastures at the Orange Agricultural Institute, 65 regional sheep graziers discovered the results of a large-scale trial into optimum grazing management.

The trial compares continuous grazing options with those of rotational grazing systems and explores how to best manage native and introduced pastures with differing stocking rates and paddock numbers.

Graziers are often limited to what they learn in their own paddocks and what works over the fence on their neighbours’ properties.

This is the first trial that used 11 grazing treatments over two locations, Orange and Panuara.

The trial was designed to explore as many options as were practical in terms of stocking rates and grazing rotations.

“We simulated a spring lambing meat production system where the stocking rate is higher through spring and early summer,” NSW Department of Primary Industries research agronomist Warwick Badgery said.

“Subject to the same conditions farmers faced, with dry springs during the last two years, we’ve seen the higher stocking rates have done it pretty tough going into summer.”

Those higher stocking rates still provided the grazier with a proftable outcome, however, in the long term those stocking rates could lead to increased pasture management expenses.

As all properties are different, the main goal of the trial is to provide graziers with the data necesary to enhance  their profitability and long-term pasture management.

Not only were different stocking rates studied, but the qualities of introduced and native pastures were compared.

Introduced Cockswood at the Orange Agricultural Institute outscored the native Microlaena and Wallaby Grass at Panuara that were less productive over winter.

“We measured the herbage mass during the dry times and the native grasses were not as succesful during these seasons,” Dr Badgery said.

“It’s a trade-off between profit over the short term, which higher stocking rates will bring you, and the potential of increased pasture management costs over the long-term,” Dr Badgery said. 

“This data will help graziers determine what combination works best for their property.”

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