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Profit from improved pasture skills

The PIRD was undertaken for two main reasons: 

  •  o To address a number of issues that became evident from the groups formal benchmarking activities. The main issues were; significant limitation in skills of the producer members on how to increase the amount of pasture grown and utilised and whether or not the proportion of energy partitioned to saleable product (meat production) could be increased above the group average of 25%. 
  •  o As a support mechanism to enable practice change for the group once they had completed a pasture management workshop. The PIRD was used to demonstrate the implementation of pasture management principles in a commercial environment, enabling farmers to discuss the strategies derived from the principles and observe the outcomes of implementing these strategies. 

The group met on a monthly to six weekly basis and went through the process of collecting and processing the data required to make the best decisions to increase pasture growth and utilisation as well as meet the nutritional requirements of the stock. 

The data collected included pasture cover in each paddock, pre and post grazing residuals and leaf emergence rate. From this raw data, pasture growth rate and rotation length were established and feed allocation and supplementary feeding decisions were made. The purpose being to maximise pasture growth by grazing at the appropriate leaf stage and eating as much of this feed grown as possible by matching animal demand to the pasture growth. 

Pasture utilisation was increased from an average of around 5,500 kg DM/ha to 7,800 kg DM/ha or close to 42% and was associated with an increase in liveweight production per hectare from 345 kg/ha to 600 kg/ha. 

A skills audit and pre and post project survey indicated that farmer skill level and their confidence about making pasture management decisions had increased significantly over the course of the PIRD project. In fact they had similar levels of skills in the area of pasture management as the most profitable producers in the state. 

By having the appropriate rotation length for the whole year the need for nitrogen fertiliser was reduced. Over 40% more feed was harvested with less nitrogen input. 

Variable costs were increased in a pro rata manner (in the model) with pasture utilisation but there was significant savings (or dilution) of overhead costs and a reduction in the cost of production per kg of beef. 

The combination of increased liveweight production and reduced costs resulted in an increase in profit of about 250% and levels of profitability (return on capital) comparable with the best managers in the industry.

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This page was last updated on 24/07/2017

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