Livestock enterprises are being encouraged to join the successful Grazing Matcher program, with a new group planned to commence by March 2020.
The program is a partnership between South West Catchments Council and Western Beef Association Inc that supports farmers to adopt better grazing management, fodder conservation and supplementary feed decisions aimed at improving productivity, profits and natural resources.
The program involves a series of half-day meetings and field walks facilitated by livestock advisor Jeisane Accioly and agronomist Dan Parnell with support from Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator Peter Clifton and guest speakers where required.
Graduates from the 2018 program recently outlined how they benefited from the program in two videos.
Vasse beef stud owner Ken MacLeay said that he was able to produce a higher quality silage without compromising yield, which more than paid for the program itself.
“I challenged myself at the start of the course to make better quality hay and silage. The time of cutting silage is critical to quality, but I was never able to cut early enough because I never had surplus pasture early enough in the growing season. So, we had to look at our grazing strategies and our management right from the autumn, through winter and then into spring to generate that surplus earlier. After cutting silage I was able to get very good regrowth in the paddocks, so I don’t think there was any loss in production from cutting earlier. It was a better quality and there was more of it.”
In addition to the technical advice and hands-on learning opportunities, peer to peer networking was also highly valued by past participants, as described by Donnybrook producer Paul Fry.
“You always get something out of hearing what other producers are doing and how they’re responding to the same challenges that you’re facing, because everyone’s dealing with the same season.”
Nannup producer Mark Scott also valued the farm visits.
“The network of like-minded farmers has been a really good sounding board for everything we’ve done, and the farm visits particularly have been a great learning experience.”
The new group has room for eight livestock enterprises who pay a fee of $600 (30% of total cost) to be involved with each enterprise hosting one meeting each over a 12-month period. The South West Catchments Council subsidises the program through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.
The program was developed using national best practice techniques adapted to the South West environment, with the focus including:
- rotational grazing using visual cues to optimise grass recovery and growth;
- autumn deferral;
- quality fodder production;
- livestock nutritional requirements and efficient feed allocation;
- informed feed purchasing and testing; and
- business monitoring.