Mixed Species Grazing Trial

Using Mixed Species Grazing Crops as Part of a Mixed Farming System in Southern NSW

Project Partners: FarmLink, Hart Bros Seeds
Project Code: MSG20
Project Duration: 2019-2020
Project Location: Junee Reefs

Background

In recent years mixed farmers have experimented with growing annual grazing crops that contain a mixture of species grown together at the same time. This is a way of bringing diversity into a cropping and livestock system and even increasing the carry capacity at different times of the year for livestock. “Graze and Grain” or dual-purpose cropping has been a very successful technique for mixed farmers in Southern NSW and can produce a high return through kilograms of meat or wool as well as the grain. However, grazing periods for these crops can be limited especially in drier years, which can result in feed shortages at different times of the year. This becomes significant if permanent pastures also have low productivity due to drought. Mixed species grazing crops or ‘cover crops’ have the potential do produce higher amounts biomass throughout the season and are not limited by grazing time due to grain production. The diversity of the mix also brings many other benefits beside high dry matter production. The mixed species provides a mixed and more balanced diet for livestock and more nutritious if species such as legumes are included. Other benefits including acting as a break crop to aid weed and pest control and providing groundcover which prevents soil erosion and can even boost soil organic carbon levels. Dynamic root systems can breakup compaction in soil and aid in water infiltration in following seasons.
Although the benefits are well recognised, they are hard to quantify and growers like to see a return on investment in the current year which would rely on growing high quantities of biomass converted to kg of meat or wool. With this in mind, FarmLink is working with Hart Bros Seeds to run a long season grazing trial where treatments consist of a vast range of long season wheats, oats, triticale and canola varieties as well as a range of legumes and mixed species. The purpose of the trial is to measure the gross margin in each treatment which is being treated as a farmer would in a mixed farming system. This means a dual-purpose crop is grazed for a short period before it is locked up to target grain yield. A vetch crop or oats/clover is grazed before it is locked up to get a final hay cut and total mixed species is grazed continually. Biomass cuts and feed test results as well as a final grain yield will be used to estimate a $/ha value of the crop for each treatment.

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