Dual-purpose crops: The potential to increase cattle liveweight gains in winter across southern Australia

J. I. McCormick, J. W. Paulet, L. W. Bell, M. Seymour, M. P. Ryan, S. R. McGrath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Context: Dual-purpose wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and canola (Brassica napus L.) crops have been extensively researched for grazing in Australian farming systems, with a focus on grazing by sheep. In some regions, dual-purpose crops have been grazed by cattle, but there have been reports of animal health problems.

Aims: This paper sought to collate all known experiments conducted throughout Australia of cattle grazing dual-purpose crops, in order to evaluate grazing management options for cattle on dual-purpose crops that result in high growth rates and good animal health outcomes.

Methods: There were six experiments. In Expts 1–3, cattle were grazed on wheat crops with and without available mineral supplementation of NaCl and MgO in a 1:1 ratio. In Expt 3, lime was also added to the mineral mix. In Expts 4 and 5, dual-purpose crops were grazed in combination with annual pastures to determine whether strategic use of dual-purpose crops could increase whole farm livestock productivity. In Expt 6, cattle were introduced to dual-purpose canola with different periods of adaptation (0, 4 and 7 days). Liveweight gain was monitored regularly to assess differences between adaptation treatments.

Key results: Liveweight gain was increased by 0–27% when cattle grazing high quality, dual-purpose wheat were provided with mineral supplement. Cattle had an initial lag in growth rate when introduced to dual-purpose canola for grazing and this was not affected by the adaptation strategy used. Cattle that experienced a shorter adaptation period achieved higher weight gains more quickly. After the lag phase, average daily gain (ADG) was ≥2 kg/head.day, with an ADG over the entire grazing period for all treatments of 1.75 kg/head.day. The effect on the farm system was determined by extending the length of the grazing period on the dual-purpose crops. Grazing periods of shorter duration did not increase overall liveweight gains compared with grazing only pasture, whereas extending the period of dual-purpose crop grazing resulted in increased cattle weights.

Conclusions: Cattle benefit from the addition of mineral supplements when grazing a dual-purpose wheat crop, with a response similar to that previously demonstrated in sheep. Cattle can safely graze dual-purpose canola and achieve high ADG. Inclusion of dual-purpose crops can improve overall cattle performance in the farming system.

Implications: The potential area for production of dual-purpose crops within the Australian mixed farming zone is large and there may be insufficient livestock numbers within the zone to utilise the potential forage production. Cattle from other regions could be introduced during autumn and winter to realise this large forage potential during a period that is commonly a feed deficit on grazing-only properties. Estimates suggest that up to two million young cattle could be supported for 60 days, increasing liveweight by 90 kg/head.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1189-1201
Number of pages13
JournalAnimal Production Science
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2021


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