OPTIMISING PASTURES IN LOW RAINFALL ZONES
To identify and demonstrate how to optimize the profitability of livestock pasture systems in low rainfall zone of the northern wheatbelt by utilising improved perennial and annual feed base options and reducing the cost of supplementary feed in the typical summer/autumn feed gap period.
Meat and Livestock Australia, Producer Demonstration Site
Project lead organisation
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.
It is estimated that Liebe Group members dedicate approximately 150,000ha to livestock production annually, so increasing stocking rates by 0.2 head/ha with the use of more robust pasture options, it would equate to 30,000 more head of sheep in the region. With the average return per ewe being $150/year this would represent an increase in returns of $4.5 million per year in this region alone, with the potential for further extension of knowledge and technologies across other low rainfall regions of Australia.
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.
Results and Reports