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Pasture utilisation

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. Grazing managers should aim to convert the largest amount of pasture energy and nutrients into saleable product while leaving the pasture residue in the best condition for rapid regrowth.

This is achieved by identifying the stocking rate and density that an enterprise can sustain to maximise green pasture utilisation. The number of animals will depend on the nature of the enterprise (breeding and/or trading) but should be sufficient to ensure high utilisation of the pasture grown while maintaining the long-term sustainability of the pasture and the grazing system.

To achieve an increase in pasture use, a plant-based grazing management approach that considers seasonal plant growth patterns should be adopted.

This approach should be underpinned by a grazing plan that determines the stocking densities and grazing durations for the pastures within an enterprise.

Developing a grazing plan

The key principles in developing a grazing plan are to:

  • Match feed supply with animal demand.
  • Identify the stock numbers (stocking density or head/ha) that the enterprise will sustain when green pasture utilisation is increased.
  • Identify and monitor pasture quality, quantity and ground cover to time the start of grazing.
  • Identify and monitor the pasture quality, quantity and ground cover to identify when to stop grazing. This will prevent pasture composition and ground cover from being adversely affected.

Use routine field measurements (pasture growth stage, mass and height) to estimate both the number of days’ rest required before the next graze and the amount of pasture mass available. Use the Feed budget and rotation planner to calculate how long stock can graze a paddock while ensuring production is maintained.

  • Manage grazing pressure to ensure that planned and efficient use of available pasture mass and energy content is achieved before regrowth is grazed. This may mean spelling a paddock to allow regrowth.
  • Plan the best balance of animal performance and pasture regrowth by grouping and allocating livestock according to their nutritional requirements.
  • Set pasture and animal target. Manage the grazing of all pasture zones to achieve production targets, maintain pastures and prevent soil and environmental degradation.