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Grazing Management For Improved Reproductive Performance and Reduced Turn-Off Times

Did you know fodder crops based on barley and barley blends can produce the greatest return on investment of nearly 20:1?

Project start date: 30 May 2014
Project end date: 30 June 2017
Publication date: 07 January 2020
Livestock species: Sheep, Lamb, Grassfed cattle
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Summary

In 2014, the Rich River BestWool/BestLamb group conducted a series of plot trials to investigate the productivity of irrigated and dryland fodder using a blend of 18 different cultivars and brands of pasture.

The research in this current project used the successful dryland and irrigation fodder and crop varieties from the 2014 trails and mixed them with rotational grazing practices, to develop management practices that delivered improved productivity and profitability of prime lamb and wool production.

A combination of increased rainfall and rotational grazing produced results between 7–14.67 tonnes/ha. All producers who attended the demonstrations either made changes or are planning to make changes as a result of the trial; there was a 38% increase in adoption for ‘growing and using fodder crops’.

Objectives

This project investigated practices that reduce turn-off times and increase production (kg/ha) of lambs in Central Murray farming systems by:

  • examining different fodder varieties in different grazing systems
  • estimating the costs and benefits of growing fodder crops and pasture species to produce prime lambs in dryland and irrigated farming systems
  • developing enhanced rotational grazing practices to better manage the nutritional requirements of prime lambs and ewes
  • promoting the information to producers through MLA’s Producer Demonstration Sites (PDS).

Key findings

  • Results show that correct grazing management and cultivar selection makes it is possible to increase dry matter by 7–14.67 tonnes/ha.
  • Grazing barley and barley blends produced the greatest return on investment, with a return on investment of nearly 20:1 for Hindmarsh Barley blended with Tetrone Rye and 14:1 for Moby Barley.
  • Availability of adequate fodder for grazing during gestation and lactation contributed to a modest improvement in the reproduction rate of Merinos. There was no difference in the reproduction rate of the cross bred flock.
  • Seven PDS events were held and incorporated topics on ewe and lamb management, forage species and grazing management. Feedback from participants indicated they had improved ability to monitor and manage ewe pregnancy status, allocate pastures for various classes of sheep, use short-term forages and manage grazing.

Benefits to industry

A main outcome from the project was strategies to improve rotational grazing to enhance fodder production.

Producers who participated in the PDS developed skills and techniques to strategically graze sheep in their cereal
farming systems.

MLA action

The success of this project has led MLA to run additional Enhanced Producer Demonstration Site projects related to grazing land management.

Future research

The main recommendations from the PDS highlight the need for more information on how to:

  • use fodders that are better suited to the environment in which they are to be grown
  • manage grazing pressure and grazing duration on irrigated and non-irrigated fodder.

More information

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