A smorgasbord of the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s (DPIRD) latest advances and advice on pasture and grazing management was served up at Pasturama in Manjimup recently.
The event was hosted by the Western Beef Association, DPIRD and the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program Soil Wise initiative.
Department senior research scientist Paul Sanford discussed how kikuyu could fill the autumn feed gap by reducing dependence on supplementary feeding and lifting sheep stocking rates by 20 to 40 per cent.
“Management is the key with kikuyu, grazing hard pre-season to allow annual legumes space to establish and, if required, using a grass selective herbicide to reduce competition from kikuyu,” he said.
“Kikuyu is a great low input option, particularly where there are limited species choices, such as infertile deep sands. It also offers additional benefits, like preventing soil degradation, reducing groundwater recharge and increasing soil carbon.”
Kikuyu sown with sub clover and serradella is one of many pasture treatments being trialled by DPIRD’s Feed 365 project to provide all year round feed at the Katanning Research Station, in collaboration with Meat and Livestock Australia.
Principal research scientist David Weaver profiled a long running project, demonstrating the value of soil sampling to optimise production and identify water quality risks.
The ongoing project, supported by Healthy Estuaries Western Australia, collected soil samples from more than 30,000 paddocks from 1630 farming properties from just north of Perth to east of Albany over the past 13 years.
Mr Weaver said the results highlighted the potential economic risks of fertilising pastures when not required or when soil acidity is unlikely to adversely constrain pasture production.
“On average, participants involved in the soil testing program had potential to save up to $12,000 on phosphorus costs, which could be redirected to other nutrient and soil acidity constraints on the farm,” he said.
“This valuable data could also help farmers reduce phosphorus runoff and leaching by more than 25 per cent.”
Senior research scientist Angelo Loi provided some tips to overcome constraints in mixed farming systems, like herbicide resistance, declining pasture productivity from intense crop rotations and an increasing dependence on nitrogen fertilisers.
“By following the ‘golden rules’, like correct paddock selection and good weed management, landholders will be able to maximise pasture potential and develop sustainable agricultural systems,” Dr Loi said.
“Managing first year pastures like a crop and getting a good seed bank is vital to setting up a paddock for profitable production.”
New approaches to pasture production will also be profiled at the upcoming DPIRD-Meat and Livestock Australia SheepLinks FEED365 and Future Sheep field day at the Katanning Leisure Centre on Wednesday, 5 April. For more information and to register click here.
SoilWise is funded by the National Landcare Program Smart Farms Small Grants – an Australian Government Initiative. It is supported by Healthy Estuaries WA – a State Government program.
Megan Broad/Jodie Thomson, media liaison
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