Grazing Matcher improves pasture utilisation

Graeme Fazey and Ann Harris practice condition scoring at a recent Grazing Matcher meeting, assisted by coordinator Jeisane Accioly (background)

Bridgetown beef producers Ann Harris and Graeme Fazey have wanted to implement rotational grazing for a long time. However, it was only after joining a Grazing Matcher group in 2020 that they gained the knowledge and tools to motivate a change.

The Grazing Matcher program supports beef and sheep producers to improve grazing, ground cover, fodder and feed decisions for increased productivity and efficiency.

Ann said the program has improved their pasture utilisation.

“Our pastures are very much mixed capeweed, flatweed, ryegrass and clover. Normally, the cows will leave the weeds and overgraze the good plants, which don’t recover.

“After joining the program, we decided to make our paddocks smaller (with a single electric wire) to increase the numbers per hectare and move them more frequently to avoid grazing pasture below 4-6 centimetres.”

With less space, the cows ate all plants evenly and preferred species were more competitive.

“We were able to keep our cows in better condition compared to previous years because we grew more pasture and they ate more, even with the capeweed. The feed got ahead of the cattle and we actually had some time off!”

The better utilisation and growth means Ann and Graeme can increase stocking rates without putting environmental pressure on their land or sacrificing animal condition.

The program has also highlighted the benefits of feed testing and understanding their animal’s nutritional needs.

“I’d never done feed testing because you typically know whether hay is good or bad. But I never realised that ‘good’ oaten hay can still be relatively low quality. Also, it was a massive eye-opener comparing feeds and seeing how one with higher protein might be worse for the cow if it has a higher fibre content.”

Four new Grazing Matcher groups are commencing in autumn 2021 in the South West and South Coast. Groups consist of eight grazing businesses (beef or sheep), which meet eight times over 12 months for half a day, alternating between each other’s farm. Each business can send up to two people per subscription fee ($600). To learn more or join the program, contact Peter Clifton on (08) 9724 2400 or [email protected].

Grazing Matcher is supported by South West Catchments Council, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program; Profitable Grazing Systems, an MLA initiative; Healthy Estuaries WA, a State Government, Royalties for Regions program; and Revitalising Geographe Waterways.

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