Utilising dual-purpose crops effectively to increase profit and manage risk in meat production systems

S. R. McGrath, R. Behrendt, M. A. Friend, A. D. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Dual-purpose cropping (sowing crops with the intention of both grazing them during vegetative growth and harvesting grain thereafter) has become a widespread farming practice in southern Australia. This synopsis paper integrates research from a multi-institutional research project conducted at three nodes located near Hamilton (south-western Victoria), Wagga Wagga (southern NSW) and Canberra (ACT), and sets out 11 principles for the effective utilisation of dual-purpose crops in meat production systems to increase profit and manage risk. Dual-purpose crops can be used to overcome feed quality gaps in late summer-autumn or feed quantity gaps in late autumn/winter. They provide large quantities of high-quality forages for grazing in summer, autumn and winter and can provide a substantial contribution to the annual number of grazing days on a farm. Utilisation of the high-quality dry matter provided by dual-purpose crops is most effective when directed at young growing stock for sale or future reproduction rather than reproducing adult ewes. For example, sale weight of yearlings per ewe was increased by 16% in systems at the Canberra node when dual-purpose crops were prioritised for grazing by weaners. Wool production was also increased in systems that included grazing of dual-purpose crops. Grazing crops in winter does not necessarily reduce supplementary feeding costs for winter or spring lambing. Modelling suggests that inclusion of dual-purpose crops does not substantially change the optimum time of lambing for sheep meat systems. Financial analysis of the experimental data from the Canberra node showed that although cash expenses per hectare were increased in the crop-grazing systems, the overall profitability of those systems over the life of the experiment was greater by AU$207/ha.year than that of the pasture-only system. Factors driving improved profitability included income from grain, higher income from meat and wool, and lower supplementary feeding costs. However, increasing the area sown to crop from 10% to 30% of the farm area in this Southern Tablelands system appeared to increase risk. In south-western Victoria, spring-sown canola carried risk similar to or less than other options assessed to achieve ewe-lamb mating weight. It is likely that at least part of the reduction in risk occurs through the diversification in income from the canola produced as part of the system. It was concluded that the grazing of cereal and canola crops for livestock production can be profitable and assist in managing risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1049-1061
Number of pages13
JournalAnimal Production Science
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 08 Jul 2021


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