Digestibility is a useful measure of pasture quality as it is a measure of the proportion of pasture that is absorbed and utilised by the animal and is directly related to the energy content of pasture. Tool 7.6 (all tools available on the MMFS website)shows the decline in the digestibility and energy content of temperate and tropical pastures as the plant matures.

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Energy and protein are needed by animals to maintain critical body functions and to achieve production targets for growth, wool production and reproduction.

Energy, protein and digestibility are positively correlated and primarily driven by the plant stage of growth, with early vegetative growth of plants typically having the highest feed quality. Protein content of pastures can vary significantly between species with legumes, such as clovers and lucerne, typically higher in protein than grasses.

Table 8.1 describes the pasture quality (digestibility) and quantity (FOO) benchmarks required to meet production targets of various classes of livestock. Use the benchmarks in table 8.1 as ‘trigger points’ to better match feed supply with animal demand and so improve the likelihood of meeting your production targets.

Table 8.1 Minimum pasture supply benchmarks to maintain satisfactory production levels in sheep using feed on offer (FOO). Source: PROGRAZE®, adapted by AWI and MLA. * Predicted growth rates in brackets are based on a weaned 4-month old crossbred lamb of approximately 32 kg from a ewe with a standard reference weight of 55 kg.

If the pasture targets in table 8.1 are not met, then animal production targets will not be met. A decision will be needed to accept a lower production level, change paddock, reduce stock numbers, or supplement to meet the energy and protein requirements of the stock.