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Predicting spring pasture growth

Project start date: 01 May 2018
Project end date: 14 October 2022
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Grass-fed Cattle, Sheep, Lamb
Relevant regions: Victoria
Site location: Central Victoria


The Enhanced Producer Demonstration Site (EPDS) concept was developed in 2014 as a partnership between Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and Agriculture Victoria. The partnership brings the benefits of integrating with Agriculture Victoria’s  BestWool/BestLamb and BetterBeef network of producers and groups receive assistance from Agriculture Victoria extension staff throughout the demonstrations including monitoring, evaluation, reporting and communication.

This project comprised of two parts. Firstly, the completion of a suite of eight (Phase 1) demonstrations that commenced in 2014, and secondly, a further seven (Phase 2) demonstrations, established through an expression of interest (EOI) process that commenced in 2018 / 19. 

This EPDS Project is investigating the use of soil moisture probes to predict late winter/spring pasture growth and options for using this information to improve feed management.


Soil moisture probes are gathering popularity in pasture paddocks across Victoria, albeit without clear understanding on the value in a grazing system. Research indicates that soil moisture at the beginning of spring can have a considerable impact on the pasture produced, which is utilised in software programs such AskBill (now Ag360), but this is not well known or utilised by producers.  Early prediction of spring growth has the potential to help farmers make some early management decisions, particularly in the event of a poor spring.

Pasture cages were installed on four trial sites that had soil moisture probes, and cuts were taken over the late winter/spring period to estimate monthly pasture growth rates. Predictions for the spring period were produced using actual soil moisture at each site from 2019 to 2021. Regional climate forecasts were included in the predictions in 2020 and 2021. Actual growth rates were compared to the predictions to assess accuracy. 

Demonstration sites experienced three good spring seasons, commencing with full soil moisture profiles in August/September, so all pasture predictions were for average or greater than average spring pasture production. Despite limited opportunity for farmer engagement over the project, most farmers involved felt predictions were realistic and that they could use soil probe data to make some early decisions in spring regarding stock sales, stocking rates, feed budgeting and pasture sowing decisions. 

Benefits to industry include an increased understanding and use of the soil moisture probe data; an increase in confidence in pasture predictions; interest by the wider advisory and service industry in the technology and hence an opportunity for wider uptake and extension in the future. However, discussion and validation of pasture growth and predictions is critical for ongoing confidence and uptake.

There is currently no simple and robust predictive system for Victoria. Farming Forecaster is an example of such a tool with a dashboard but is currently only supported in some regions, depending on funding. 

EPDS Phase 2 is now complete, the program final report and individual project reports will be published on the MLA website in the near future.

Get involved

Contact the PDS facilitator:

Jane Court