Pasture Grazing and Management

Pasture and grazing management

Stocking rate is a major determinant of profitability. To optimise profitability the objective is to maximise the number of livestock carried at the least cost per livestock unit. This can be done by either:

  • Growing more pasture during the times of year when feed is limiting (usually autumn/early winter in southern Australia) and running more livestock at the same level of efficiency, or
  • Growing the same amount of grass and improving its utilisation by running more livestock more efficiently, or
  • A combination of both

Growing more pasture

During winter in southern Australia, pasture growth is mainly limited by temperature. However, the level of soil fertility, the type of pasture species/varieties present and the way the pasture is grazed all have a major impact on the pastures growth rates at this time of year. These factors influence the length of the growing season and how quickly the pasture responds after the autumn break or after drought. They also impact on the quality of the pasture.

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Utilising more pasture

How much pasture you can utilise is essentially driven by stocking rate. However, your management calendar (time of lambing or calving, time of sale of lambs or culls) also impacts on how well you can match pasture supply with the feed demand. For breeding flocks or herds it may only be possible to utilise 50-60% of pasture grown. Some pasture must be left at the end of the growing season to provide feed for stock over summer/early autumn, provide litter for the soil biota and to protect the soil from erosion. The greater the variability in pasture production from year to year, the more difficult it is to achieve high levels of pasture utilisation. The only exception would be for those businesses running livestock trading enterprises.

Mackinnon services

The Mackinnon group provides an on-farm consultancy service and can advise you on:

  • Soil testing and fertiliser programs
  • Grazing systems
  • Pasture renovation
  • Selecting an optimum time of lambing /calving
  • Optimising stocking rate and managing risk