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How do I make my pastures more productive?

Dan Hickey April 7, 2020

The Issue:

Australia’s feedbase is not reaching full productivity.

The impact:

Livestock production is failing to reach its full potential from the existing feedbase and livestock production is largely underpinned s by supplementary feeding.

The opportunity:

By lifting feedbase productivity, the red meat industry can lift liveweight gain, increase carrying capacity, reduce the cost of production, maximise genetic gain and improve turn off times.

While it is recognised that pasture persistence is an issue for Australian livestock producers, research has also revealed the feedbase is failing to operate at full productivity, effectively undermining gains made in other on-farm changes.

A combination of interventions and implementing paddock and grazing management changes, most producers have an opportunity to significantly lift feedbase productivity, and reduce supplementary feeding costs. A feedbase operating at optimum capacity can also help increase  business resilience to assist  with climate variation and meeting market specifications  in an increasingly complex, but growing global demand for protein.

Pastures which achieve high productivity and maintain productivity for longer periods reduce the reliance on supplementary feed, such as grain and fodder. It also improves the opportunity to achieve market compliance, which lifts Australia’s competitiveness on the global market.

What techniques can I use to lift pasture productivity?

  • growing the right species for your environment and production system
  • managing soil health by improving nutrient deficiencies
  • growing legumes to supply free nitrogen to the pasture
  • managing weeds and pests
  • encouraging regeneration by managing the seed bank and grazing regime
  • selecting drought tolerant and resilient species
  • sowing additional species into existing pastures.

How do I know if my pastures are not reaching full productivity?

Start with an honest and realistic assessment. Conduct a pasture assessment, including a visual species review, a dry matter assessment and pasture quality testing. This will help understand how much pasture is being produced and what its nutritional value is by supplying measures such as digestibility. Producers can also upskill in this area with MLA Grazing EDGE management training

Compare the results with trial data on that species and seek advice from advisors on interpreting your results. The MLA- supported   and the tool are two online resources to help with this.

Then assess gaps in your production system by looking at your current carrying capacity, weight gain rates, ability to achieve market compliance, reproductive efficiency and animal health.

Are these above or below the local average for your peers? If you are unsure, ask around.

If your pastures are not performing to their potential, undertake research, talk to neighbours and advisors and plan ahead for a better performing system.


Sgn up for your ownpersonal livestock production portal at MyMLA and have info on pasture info, training and the latest species trials and research sent directly to your inbox.

Making More from Sheep Grow More Pasture tool

Feed quality testing is conducted by various laboratories around Australia. Ask a reseller or advisor for advice on this.


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