Grazing management - sort the grain from the chaff

Ag Advice - September 2022

Phil Cranney, Senior Land Services Officer - Pastures

For a temperate pasture dominant grazing system, the next 8 months (October to May) are the most crucial period for nailing your grazing management, in terms of environmental and livestock performance goals.

The Orange EverGraze Proof site grazing management experiment at Panuara on native grasses compared three different grazing management systems in the late 2000’s. These were the grazing treatments:

  1. Continuous grazing treatment (sheep were never moved off the pasture, only for shearing)
  1. Medium grazing intensity – 4 paddock rotation
  1. High grazing intensity – 20 paddock rotation

Pasture biomass, pasture composition, groundcover, soil moisture, soil fertility, livestock weight gain, and livestock fat score, were all measured.

The pasture was predominately native being microlaena stipoides (weeping grass), various species of rytidosperma (Wallaby grass), elymus scaber (common wheat grass), bothriochloa macra (red grass), Austrostipa scabra (rough spear grass). lolium rigidum (annual ryegrass) and trifolium subterranean (sub-clover) provided some much need quality winter growth.

Results can be found on the EverGraze website.

At the completion of the Panuara experiment, our EverGraze reference group, made up of farmers and agronomists, decided they would like to know what would happen if we applied the following management practices:

  1. Higher intensity stocking rate with longer rest periods
  1. Flexible rotational grazing that better represents the majority of local practices
  1. Higher intensity stocking rate with shorter rest periods
  1. Compare the number of paddocks

Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) funded the grazing management experiment at Bloomfield, opposite Gosling Creek reserve. The pasture is a cocksfoot dominant grass base, with some fescue, white clover and sub-clover. The systems experiment has mimicked a first cross ewe system by lifting the number of stock grazing in line with the lift in DSE/Ha demands of a ewe and lamb unit throughout gestation, parturition and lactation.

The treatments being investigated on this AWI experiment are the following:

  1. Continuous grazing low stocking rate
  1. Continuous grazing high stocking rate
  1. High stocking rate slow rotation (long rest periods)
  1. Low stocking rate slow rotation (long rest periods)
  1. High stocking rate fast rotation (short rest periods)
  1. Low stocking rate fast rotation (short rest periods)
  1. Flexible stocking rate, managing for optimal pasture and livestock performance

This ongoing experiment at the Orange Agricultural Institute has become a significant site in terms of its ability to provide real data for the, at times controversial, “grazing systems help build soil carbon” debate.

On Friday 23 September, you will have the opportunity to look at the experiment and its treatments.

You will be able to inspect the different treatments that the livestock have been removed from just days ago, and some that have had a few weeks rest already.

You can assess for yourself the differences in regrowth of the various treatments.

NSW DPI’s Dr Warwick Badgery will summarise the findings from this long running experiment and discuss these different grazing management systems in environmental, economic and livestock performance terms.

This event will provide an understanding of the bigger picture when it comes to grazing management systems. It is one not to be missed.

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