Pasture degradation is a major issue in the high rainfall zone (>600 mm) of temperate Australia. Characterised by a decline in the perennial grass component, this degradation is responsible for reduced livestock production and implicated in environmental problems, such as dryland salinity, through changed water-use patterns. This paper reports on a multi-disciplinary research program conducted at Carcoar in central New South Wales, one of 6 sites that comprised the Sustainable Grazing Systems National Experiment. The aim of the experiment was to develop more profitable and sustainable pasture systems by evaluating the impact of changes in the perennial grass component on animal production and water-use patterns. Tactical management strategies were evaluated on naturalised and sown perennial grass pastures and on chicory (Cichorium intybus), using a Merino ewe-based first cross lamb enterprise. Data presented showed that grazing deferment over summer, combined with reduced stocking rate, increased perenniality and reduced annual grass weeds compared with continuous grazing. Livestock performance, however, did not always follow trends in available perennial herbage mass. Naturalised and sown pastures were suitable for raising prime lambs, but only chicory had the capacity to finish lambs to market specification without supplementation. With respect to water-use patterns, sown perennial pastures were more successful than naturalised pastures in reducing leakage of water from the root zone, although this seemed to be related mostly to the abundance of the perennial grass in the pasture. From a sustainability perspective, continuously grazed pastures generated higher net cash flows, but had negative environmental impacts, whereas tactically grazed pastures had positive on- and off-farm impacts but lower net cash flows. The implications of these findings for incorporation into future management strategies for sustainable production in high rainfall environments are discussed.
|Number of pages||14|
|Journal||Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture|
|Publication status||Published - 2003|