EverGraze project

Page last updated: Thursday, 18 January 2018 - 8:58am

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Established in 2003, EverGraze was designed to develop, test and implement new farming systems based on perennials in a range of environments across the high rainfall zone of southern Australia.

Summary

The EverGraze project had ambitious goals:

  • significantly increase profitability of livestock enterprises above local benchmarks and simultaneously reduce ground water recharge
  • reduce soil loss by water and wind
  • improve soil health (including acidity and salinity)
  • improve biodiversity.

To achieve these aims, the project applied a set of principles, which can be summarised as 'putting the right plant in the right place for the right purpose with the right management'.

The Western Australian node focused on a proof site on the Albany Sandplain. This was a farmlet scale trial that incorporated a range of perennial systems built around a prime lamb system. Monitoring data from the proof site was then used to validate a GrassGro model that was used to simulate and trial a range of pasture types and mixes and determine the impact on production and profitability. There was also several satellite and case study sites scattered across the high rainfall south coast.

In Western Australia (WA) the research team investigated the use of kikuyu, lucerne, chicory, tall fescue and panic to increase profit from prime lamb production and reduce land degradation. Research and modelling showed a number of clear benefits from incorporating perennial pastures into the farming system.

These were refined down to key messages that highlighted the main findings from the research and modelling. These are:

  • Adding 25% perennials to farming systems on the south coast of WA will give the highest gross margins.
  • Deep-rooted summer active perennials kikuyu, lucerne and chicory extend the growing season and reduce the need for supplementary feed in summer and autumn compared to annual based pasture systems in the south coast of WA.
  • Kikuyu, chicory and panic persist through dry seasons.
  • Chicory and lucerne extend the growing season and provide quality feed in a lamb finishing system.
GrassGro simulation showing effect of perennials on gross margin at Wellstead, with 25% being the best, followed by 50%, 75%, 100% and 0%.
Figure 1 GrassGro simulation showing effect of perennials on gross margin at Wellstead

A longer growing season also provided other important benefits by allowing the shifting of the optimum time of lambing to June or July rather than May when there was greater than 25% under perennials (Figure 2). The introduction of perennials also reduced supplementary feeding whilst maintaining groundcover and soil stability.

The peak of the stocking rate is at about 8 ewes per hectare, returning a gross margin of over $300 per hectare
Figure 2 Relationship between stocking rate and average gross margin at Wellstead for the most profitable solutions for each of the pasture systems, annual, 25% perennial, 50% perennial, 75% perennial and 100% perennial

For more detailed information, please see the Evergraze website.

Perennials provide green feed outside growing season – quality and quantity

Deep-rooted summer active perennials kikuyu, lucerne and chicory, extend the growing season and reduce the need for supplementary feed in summer and autumn compared to annual based pasture systems in south-coast WA.

Table 1 Modelled average daily growth rate in kilograms of dry matter/hectare/day (kg DM/ha/day) for each month from January (J) to December (D) and average annual yield at Wellstead from 1970 to 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

J

F

M

A

M J J A S O N D

Average annual yield kg/DM/ha

Kikuyu

13 13 13 14 16 17 24 39 40 35 24 14 8011

Lucerne

10 9 9 12 13 16 19 27 32 33 26 14 6752

Chicory

7

6 9 11 11 12 12 14 17 20 16 9 4404

Annual

6 9 9 16 22 32 39 48 44 36 14 7 8567

Kikuyu recorded the highest dry matter production at the EverGraze proof site in Wellstead during summer. Overall the perennials were able to produce over 10kg DM/ha/day in November and December (Figure 3). This is of course highly dependent on rainfall however modelling showed it could be as high as 24kg DM/ha/day (Table 1).

Modelled daily pasture growth rates (kgDM/ha/day) for the proof site at Wellstead WA averaged from 1970 until 2010
Figure 3 Modelled daily pasture growth rates (kgDM/ha/day) for the Proof Site Wellstead WA averaged from 1970 until 2010

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Lucerne and chicory provided quality out of season feed with summer/autumn dry matter digestibility of around 70% for lucerne and 80% for chicory (Figure 4). Total production for the perennial swards was similar to the annuals at 6t/ha however winter production was slightly lower in Wellstead.

Dry matter digestibility and metabolisable energy of kikuyu, lucerne and chicory averaged over 2006 to 2008 at the Proof Site in Wellstead.
Figure 4 Dry matter digestibility and metabolisable energy of kikuyu, lucerne and chicory averaged over 2006 to 2008 at the proof site in Wellstead

For more detailed information, please see the Evergraze website.

Kikuyu, chicory and panic persist through dry seasons

Deep-rooted summer active perennials kikuyu, chicory and panic survived three drought years at the EverGraze proof site in Wellstead, while summer-active tall fescue failed and lucerne declined over the same period.

Basal cover measurement showed that the chicory and panic maintained and even increased basal cover over a tough three years. This was due to the plants increase in size and in the case of the chicory some recruitment (Figure 5).

Basal cover (%) of lucerne, panic and chicory and kikuyu frequency at Wellstead Proof Site from 2006 to 2009.
Figure 5 Basal cover (%) of lucerne, panic and chicory and kikuyu frequency at Wellstead proof site from 2006 to 2009

Lucerne has the potential to provide a very good finishing system. It was able to drive lamb growth rates of 232 grams per head per day (g/hd/day), however it was not able to persist on the soils on the proof site. This was in contrast to the kikuyu that was able to persist very well and was able to provide good maintenance feed for ewes but was not able to finish lambs due to the lower quality (Tables 2 and 3).

Table 2 Feed analysis results for chicory, lucerne, kikuyu, straw and EasyOne ® pellets. Note: Metabolisable energy is measured in megajoules per kilogram (MJ/kg)

Sample

Date

Dry matter

digestibility (%)

Crude protein (%)

Metabolisable energy (MJ/kg)

Chicory

15/09/2008

82

26

12.4

Lucerne

15/09/2008

76

27

11.5

Kikuyu

15/09/2008

72

19

10.8

Chicory

19/11/2008

78

18

11.8

Lucerne

19/11/2008

69

26

10.3

Kikuyu

19/11/2008

66

13

9.7

Straw

12/5/2008

34

2

4.2

EasyOne

69

16

11.5

 

 
Table 3 Lamb liveweight (lwt) performance on a combination of perennials in late 2008 and early 2009

Grazing period

Days

Pastures grazed

Initial lwt (kg)

Final lwt (kg)

ADG (g/hd/day)

9 Oct-23 Nov

46

Fescue, kikuyu, panic, lucerne

25.7

30.4

102

22 Dec–29 Dec

8

Lucerne

34.3

36.2

232

8 Jan–26 Jan

19

Kikuyu, panic, lucerne

38.2

38.4

11

27 Jan–22 Feb

31

Kikuyu, chicory

33.0

35.6

84

Links to external sites

All information including research findings, papers, tools and extension material has been collated from the participating sites in Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. This has been placed onto a website that has been designed to allow producers and advisor access to all information in an easy to access and convenient format.

Packages have been developed targeting specific zones in each state. Key research findings are accessible though the regional package or directly from the home page plus updated information and tools.

Visit Evergraze for further information.

Contact information

Paul Sanford
+61 (0)8 9892 8475
Ronald Master
+61 (0)8 9892 8521
Eric Dobbe
+61 (0)8 9892 8458

Authors

Paul Sanford
Ronald Master

Regions