Integrated overview of results from a farmlet experiment which compared the effects of pasture inputs and grazing management on profitability and sustainability

James M. Scott, Karl Behrendt, A. Colvin, F Scott, LM Shakhane, C Guppy, J Hoad, C.A. Gaden, C Edwards, G.N. Hinch, O.J. Cacho, G.E. Donald, D. Cottle, T. Coventry, G. Williams, D.F. Mackay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Although farmlet B had the highest cash position at the end of the trial, this came at a cost of the declining quality of its pastures. Modelling of the farmlet systems allowed the results of this drier-than-average experimental period to be seen in the context of long-term climatic expectations. The main factors responsible for lifting the productivity of farmlet A were the sowing of temperate species and increased soil fertility which enhanced the amount of legume and increased pasture quality and potential pasture growth. The factor which affected farmlet C most was the low proportion of the farmlet grazed at any one time, with high stock density imposed during grazing, which decreased feed intake quality. The paper concludes that more profitable and sustainable outcomes are most likely to arise from grazing enterprises which are proactively managed towards optimal outcomes by maintaining sufficient desirable perennial grasses with adequate legume content, enhancing soil fertility and employing flexible rotational grazing.This paper provides an integrated overview of the results collated from component papers and discusses the inferences which can be drawn from whatwas a complex, agroecosystem trial. The measurements recorded both early and late in the trial were tabulated for each of the farmlets and compared to each other as relative proportions, allowing visual presentation on a common, indexed scale. Because of equivalent starting conditions, there was little difference between farmlets early in the trial period (2000-2001) across a wide array of measured parameters including herbage mass, potential pasture growth rate, liveweight, wool production per head, stocking rate, gross margin and equity. Although the trial experienced drier-than-average conditions, marked differences emerged between farmlets over time, due to the effects of treatments. During the latter half of the trial period (2003-2006), farmlet A showed numerous positive and a few negative consequences of the higher rate of pasture renovation and increased soil fertility compared to the other two farmlets. Whilst intensive rotational grazing resulted in superior control of gastrointestinal nematodes and slightly finer wool, this system had few effects on pastures and no positive effects on sheep liveweights, wool production or stocking rate. Whereas farmlet A showed higher gross margins,it had a negative and much lower short-term cash position compared to farmlets B and C, due largely to the artificially high rate of pasture renovation undertaken on this farmlet during the trial.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)841-855
Number of pages15
JournalAnimal Production Science
Volume53
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013

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