Rotational grazing cereal crops with sheep

Sheep-on-cropsA rotational grazing demonstration in Victoria’s north-west is boosting sheep numbers and creating extra income for members of a local farming group.

The Rich River BestWool/BestLamb (BWBL) group near Echuca tested a new rotational grazing system using a range of crop types including barley, wheat and rye grass.

Agriculture Victoria Senior Specialist Sheep Garry Armstrong said the Producer Demonstration Site (PDS) project achieved higher stocking rates and allowed for a grain harvest from this approach.

“This demonstration site has broken traditional grazing methods where growers ‘set and forget’ paddocks, grazing them down until there is little to no feed left.

“Instead the graziers took the sheep off the paddock before all the feed was removed, letting the crop recover before putting the sheep back on.

“It can be a fine line and requires more skill than you may first think,” Mr ¬†Armstrong said.

He said it was about learning to observe when a paddock was down to the right level when the sheep needed to come out and be moved to the next paddock.

“It’s slightly more labour intensive because you’ve got to go out earlier and move them around, but the benefit is that you get more grazing days and better conditioned sheep, as well as something to harvest as well,” he said.

“Overgrazing a pasture or crop means you’ll limit regrowth and restrict potential yields of hay or grain from the crop. With this system we take the sheep off before they impact on a plant’s potential.”

Mr Armstrong said a range of cultivars and cultivar blends were used, with varying results but with one particular cultivar coming out on top.

“That’s not to say this variety is going to out-perform others every season, but indications are it may tolerate grazing better,” he said.

“The best cultivar/blend provided 50 days of grazing and 14.67 tonnes a hectare (t/ha) of Dry Matter (DM), as well as 0.8 t/ha of grain compared to 18 days of grazing, 7t/ha DM and 6.2 t/ha of hay for the poorest performing cultivar/blend.”

Mr Armstrong said the group will continue the same process this season, with slight changes to the cultivar/blend mixes.

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