Native pasture project ambitious

NSW Department of Primary Industries research agronomist, Warwick Badgery.
Dr Warwick Badgery says the EverGraze site at Orange will be used to demonstrate how elite lambs bred from these Merino ewes can be satisfactorily finished on native pasture.

An ambitious project which aims to improve environmental outcomes and increase the profitability of livestock enterprises by 50 per cent through the management of native pastures has begun on trial sites in NSW and Victoria.

NSW Department of Primary Industries research agronomist, Warwick Badgery, said these ‘proof’ sites were the second stage of the six-year EverGraze program.

"We’re testing new farming systems to prove we can increase profit and improve natural resource management (NRM) outcomes," Dr Badgery said.

"Systems developed during stage one by some of the country’s top farmers and scientists use a whole-farm approach which integrate native pastures with other forage sources.

"We aim to show that production can be lifted while gaining benefits in perennial cover, water management, biodiversity and soil health."

EverGraze sites at Tamworth, Orange, Wagga Wagga and Albury/ Wodonga will be intensively monitored to measure improvements in the dual goals.

Dr Badgery said the Orange site aims to examine how grazing systems, fertiliser, landscape and livestock can best be integrated to take advantage of native pastures.

"We hope to prove that elite lambs bred from Merino ewes joined to a terminal sire can be satisfactorily finished on native pasture," he said.

"Higher quality forage, such as lucerne and chicory, will be used to cover any feed gaps which may occur in summer and autumn."

According to Dr Badgery, breeding systems using elite genetics are not common in areas where native grasses are the dominant pasture.

"Native pastures represent twice the area of introduced pastures on the central tablelands of NSW, but native species often receive lower management priorities because they are frequently confined to less productive areas."

These areas are often hilly and highly variable with different aspects, soil depths and pasture species adding extra complexity to management.

Researchers aim to confirm which grazing systems best deliver improved profit, NRM outcomes and lifestyle benefits.

"High intensity short duration (cell) grazing systems have been widely promoted as a means of achieving these results and we will be thoroughly testing different grazing management systems with low (set stocked), medium (four paddock rotation) and high (20 paddock rotation) intensity systems to produce verifiable field data."

EverGraze is a partnership between Australian Wool Innovation, Meat and Livestock Australia, Co-operative Research Centre for Future Farm Industries and Catchment Managment Authorities.