Ground Cover Supplement : GC Supplement - Integration of livestock cropping
8 Issue 129 | July -- August 2017 | GRDC GROUNDCOVERTM SUPPLEMENT GROUNDCOVER FARMING SYSTEM Profit from enterprise integration relies on a systems approach By Zoe Creelman and Cam Nicholson n To have a meaningful impact on overall profitability, growers planning to graze crops typically need to crop an area of more than 60 per cent of their property. This scenario is far more common in low-rainfall areas than in the high-rainfall zone (HRZ), where grazing has been more widely adopted. Grazing crops is a commonly accepted way to fill a feed gap. However, it is no longer viewed as 'free feed', with the benefits to livestock often coming at the cost of decreased crop yields. Yet, while the cost of decreased yields is easy to calculate, the benefits from grazing (reduced supplementary feeding, greater lamb survival and higher weaning weights) are often small but numerous, making them harder to quantify. The GRDC-funded Grain & Graze 3 program examined seven mixed-farm systems across Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria to investigate how strategies to improve the system's profitability could work across different agro-ecological zones. The farms were modelled using APSIM, GrassGro and GrazFeed, with inputs and outputs combined in an Excel-based system that factored in production variability with the @RISK add-on. The two strategies tested were to sow crops earlier to reduce yield penalties and to increase grazing intensity to improve the livestock benefit. EARLY SOWING Shifting the sowing date earlier than the current district practice saw significant increases in crop gross margins, even when feed varieties were substituted for shorter-season milling varieties. With the grazing of early-sown, longer-season varieties, six of the seven sites recorded increases in crop gross margins. Shifting the grazing window KEY POINTS n Sowing early with longer-season varieties enables an earlier grazing window and more time for crop recovery before flowering n Increasing stock numbers or shifting to twin-bearing animals allowed greater utilisation of increased feed n For livestock production to increase sufficiently to increase profit, farms require more than 60 per cent of their land to be cropped PHOTO: ZOE CREELMAN KEY MESSAGE Shifting to an earlier sowing and grazing time to allow crops more opportunity to recover before flowering and to increase the grazing intensity on the property are keys to maximising the profitability of crop grazing. Farm modelling has highlighted the factors that improve whole-farm profitability when grazing crops.
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