On mixed farming enterprises, crops can be another source of feed for livestock enterprises. A range of cereals can be utilised by livestock without impacting on profits or the crop. Across the southern states in the Grain & Graze project, benefits of grazing cereals to fill a feed gap are apparent. The Grain & Graze trial in Western Victoria showed grazing Yerong barley at the vegetative growth stages up to stem elongation:

  • Had no adverse effect on eventual grain yield and even improved yield slightly
  • Reduced stubble levels slightly, promising easier sowing in the following season
  • Reduced the need to graze new or re-germinating legume pastures in early winter
  • Gave 4-6 weeks grazing in the colder part of the year when pasture growth was slow
  • Contributed 16% of the total feed requirement for the year.

It is your total farm feed supply curve and its variability that indicates how well an enterprise might be suited to your growing season. Revisit your annual livestock management calendar and your business plan now that you know your feed supply and how it varies within and between years. It may be possible to address livestock needs with addition of other plant species to provide pasture of the quality and quantity required for the production goals (e.g., growing out weaners, finishing lambs, etc.). Alternatively, a more cost-effective option is to revisit your enterprise structure (the number of breeders and trading stock carried), as well as reviewing your target market. For example, a better option in some locations without a summer feed supply, may be to sell lambs as stores rather than taking them to heavier weights.