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Synthesis of system outcomes for a grazing-management experiment in temperate native pastures

Synthesis of system outcomes for a grazing-management experiment in temperate native pastures

Animal Production Science 57(9): 1869-1876

ISSN/ISBN: 1836-0939

Increasing the intensity of grazing management from continuous grazing or set-stocking to intensive rotational grazing has been proposed as a way of improving the profitability and environmental outcomes for native pasture-based grazing systems in the high-rainfall zone (HRZ) of southern Australia. The present paper synthesised the results and outcomes of eight papers covering different aspects of a grazing-system study investigating the intensity of grazing management at Panuara (33 degrees 27'S, 148 degrees 56'E), 25 km south-west of Orange, New South Wales. The systems analysis covered soils and soil water, pastures, animal production, profitability and business risk by using a combination of field experiments and biophysical modelling. The experimental approach, engagement with stakeholders and the potential impact of the research outcomes are discussed; as are the future directions for grazing system research. Increasing the intensity of grazing management from a 1- to a 20-paddock system resulted in a 21% higher pasture growth, 22% higher stocking rate and 20% higher lamb production per hectare. However, modelling demonstrated that seasonal variability had a greater impact on profitability than did the management system, and whole-farm profitability of the 20-paddock system was lower than that of the 1- and 4-paddock systems due to higher infrastructure costs. Pasture stability was associated with a high perennial grass content (>70%), and a stocking rate of 4.2 ewes/ha for continuous grazing or 5.3 ewes/ha for intensive rotational grazing limited the potential for degradation events. Advantages were identified in fencing and managing production zones, with different production potential within a farm, to improve utilisation across the landscape and efficiency of fertiliser use. The farming-system approach successfully integrated field research with pre- and post-experimental modelling, and with strategic input from an advisory group containing farmers, researchers and advisors, to develop a full understanding of the impact, at a system level, of increasing the intensity of grazing management in the HRZ.

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