Optimising Pastures in low rainfall zones

Commencement date

1st November 2020

Completion date

30th August 2026


To identify and demonstrate if improved perennial and annual pasture systems that are not widely employed in the region, can reliably fulfil the seasonal feed gap requirements for livestock enterprises and increase enterprise profitability.

Funding Provider

Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA)

Project lead organisation

Liebe Group


Project background

The stocking rate achievable per unit of land is usually constrained by feed availability, particularly when producers rely heavily on pasture productivity. The Liebe Group region is characterised by a Mediterranean climate in the Low-Medium Rainfall Zone of Western Australia. Soil types range from acidic sands to medium loams. Reliable pasture production is limited by volatility in early season rainfall and warm dry spring conditions; summer rainfall is unreliable. Dry matter quantity and quality declines over summer leaving a feed gap through the summer- autumn period, where there is little to no available feed for grazing.

The base stocking number is therefore constrained by the feed available in this period, so many producers provide their stock with supplemental feeding during this time to maintain adequate condition scores. This practice is very costly, especially in dry years where the lack of feed can persist for months. Traditional clover based pastures are less suited to this environment due to the prevalence of acid soils and long periods of dry conditions as well as their inability to persist in a mixed cropping/livestock system. Producers in the region have expressed an interest in exploring new, and more resilient, pasture systems that can provide additional feed through summer and autumn at a lower cost. The end goal of these producers is to run their enterprises with more reliable and productive pastures to increase stocking rates for improved economic return.

Limited research has been conducted around growing improved pastures on poor soils in the low rainfall areas of Western Australia. As such, producers are looking to validate previous research & development conducted in high rainfall environments by demonstrating and developing these options in their specific environments. In addition to this, current livestock practices and adoption levels of new management and livestock technologies within this region are poorly understood, which, if quantified, can guide future research and development in the region.

Through this project, the Liebe Group will facilitate the engagement of an enthusiastic and passionate group of livestock producers in the local region, who will develop their capacity and knowledge around improved pasture management.

Liebe Group will provide effective facilitation through the assignment of experienced rural consultant Chris O’Callaghan (Rural Consulting and Business Services). Mr O’Callaghan has been involved in the Western Australian agricultural industry for the past 20 years, with roles at various grower groups overseeing the implementation of R,D & E programs for local farming communities. He has high proficiency in project management and facilitation skills, and is currently the Executive Officer of the Midlands Biosecurity Group.

It is planned to utilise the industry knowledge and expertise of several highly-regarded livestock/pasture specialists including Dr Angelo Loi (Senior Research Scientist, DPIRD), Bronwen Fowler (Animal Health, Nutrition and Production Specialist, Nutrien Ag Solutions), and Phil Barrett-Lennard (Agricultural Consultant, AgVivo), among others that may be identified along the life of the project. These experts will be actively engaged through all critical group activities.

It has also been identified that the Northern Agricultural Region (NAR) of WA has a limited amount of collated baseline data to show current livestock numbers, practices and priorities. Having this type of information will enable better justification of investment into the region to support the continuation of profitable livestock production. This project will conduct extensive surveying activities to develop a database for further analysis, including the examination of this project's success. This activity is strongly supported by local recognised biosecurity groups, the Central Wheatbelt Biosecurity Association (CWBA) and the Midlands Biosecurity Group (MBG).

Results and Reports

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