Producers highlight the value of autumn deferral

Mark Scott (right) discussing deferral with a Grazing Matcher group at his Nannup property in June 2018.

Recent interviews with livestock producers have highlighted the importance placed on deferred grazing in autumn.

The aim of autumn deferral is to concentrate stock into one or more ‘sacrificial’ paddocks and providing them with supplementary feed so pasture in the remaining paddocks can properly establish before being grazed. In the case of ryegrass, that means withholding grazing until plants have grown 2-3 leaves per tiller, because grazing at less than two leaves can stunt growth.

Boyanup farmer Rob Bell emphasised the value of deferred grazing when he hosted a group of producers at his property in October last year.

“Chewing paddocks as soon as you see a bit of green feed is probably the worst thing you can do. You set yourself back so far. Those leaves are the solar panels to grow more pasture. Take the solar panel away and it’s got no power to grow.”

Rob said that the knock-on effects from a poor deferment strategy were huge, especially with a cold winter.

“WA is a unique climate where it just doesn’t grow in winter. So if you don’t grow grass in autumn, you’re going into spring chasing your tail. It affects fodder production because you’re two weeks late locking up the hay paddock and your yields are down. You set yourself up for a bad start to the following year.

“Deferred grazing is probably key to getting started the right way.”

Brodie Allen from Boallia near Busselton also sees value in deferment.

“If you defer you get more growth throughout the season which means you can cut more (fodder), which means you can run more stock. Between that system and set stocking, you might double your stocking rate.”

Mark Scott from Nannup has used deferment since 1997.

“Traditionally we have cows on the ground on May 15. Because of the dry start in 2018 I went to six weeks deferred grazing out to June 15.

“By far and away it produces more grass, but you need something to feed. We went well over-budget on hay and pellets in 2018.

“Realistically we should push it out to the 1st of June, an extra two weeks of deferral.”

Mark’s experience highlights the importance of being well prepared for deferral with good spring fodder production and/or strategic purchase of supplementary feed that gets maximum energy content for every dollar spent.

Livestock producers can learn implementing deferment strategies and much more by signing up for the twelve-month Grazing Matcher program, due to start in late March 2019. For more information, contact Peter Clifton at South West Catchments Council on 08 9724 2469.

This project is supported by the South West Catchments Council, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

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