Back to R&D main

Autumn Saving of Pastures Demonstration

Did you know producers could run an extra two ewes per hectare through ‘autumn saving’ practices?

Project start date: 30 May 2014
Project end date: 30 June 2017
Publication date: 07 January 2020
Livestock species: Sheep, Lamb, Grassfed cattle
Relevant regions: Victoria
Download Report (2.4 MB)

Summary

Autumn saving’ is the practice of deferred grazing to prevent sheep from accessing certain paddocks after the autumn break to give pasture a chance to grow. This aims to ensure there is sufficient Feed On Offer (FOO) to maintain feed through to spring. The challenge with this practice is it requires increased levels of supplementary feed while stock are kept in containment areas or on ‘sacrificed’ paddocks.

This project established an ‘Enhanced Producer Demonstration Site’ to examine the feasibility and profitability of autumn saving over three years. Sheep managed through autumn saving (deferred mob) were compared to stock that were not (set mob) and evaluated in regards to lambing percentage, lamb weight, ewe condition score and profit margins.

Autumn saving demonstrated clear economic benefits for sufficiently feeding stock, while also maintaining adequate FOO levels during autumn. In a survey of producers who attended the workshops, 61% indicated they would adopt aspects of autumn saving into their practices.

Objectives

The overall aim of the project was to demonstrate autumn saving and measure the benefits of increased productivity and profitability over several years.

Three field days and one workshop were held for producers to increase their knowledge and skills to enhance the adoption of autumn saving practices.

Key findings

  • Keeping sheep off the paddock for 33 days resulted in increased pasture with an extra 850kg of dry matter per hectare. This meant an extra 27.7 tonnes of dry matter was available for the sheep once they were moved back into the ‘saved’ paddocks.
  • The extra 27.7 tonnes of available feed equates to $48/tonne dry matter, which demonstrates that autumn saving was half the cost of using urea to grow pastures ($100/tonne dry matter).
  • Animal performance varied considerably over the three year Enhanced Producer Demonstration Site and was negatively affected by management issues, such as condition score prior to entering containment, transitioning into containment and feeding in wet conditions (which led to poor feed utilisation).
  • An evaluation of producers who attended the autumn saving workshops showed improvements in knowledge (40% increase), attitude (20% increase), skills (32% increase), aspiration (28% increase) and intended adoption (30% increase).

Benefits to industry

This project demonstrated how removing stock from paddocks for a period of time after the autumn break allows pasture to recover, which promotes pasture growth and off-sets the costs of supplementary feeding during this time.

It was estimated the extra feed grown as a result of autumn saving may enable producers to run an extra two ewes per hectare, which will increase the overall productivity and profitably of sheep enterprises with high stocking rates.

MLA action

The producers involved in this project have used the knowledge gained to change practices and manage their businesses more effectively. They have also translated the information to producers who did not partake in the research, which has led to improved practice change throughout the wider red meat industry. MLA currently has no further actions planned.

Future research

The Enhanced Producer Demonstration Site found that maintaining the condition of sheep during containment in autumn can be challenging, as pens can become muddy. A topic of future research would be to identify improved strategies to hold sheep off pastures without exposing them to harsh weather conditions.

More information

Contact email: reports@mla.com.au
Primary researcher: Department of Economic Development