2 - Managing your feedbase

Key actions

  • Understand natural resource management and climate implications on your feedbase.
  • Review nutritional/water requirements of stock.
  • Review and discuss implications of stock requirements with the nutritional information gained for major pasture plants (native shrubs, grasses and forbs).
  • Use body condition scoring to determine the energy status of your stock.
  • Estimate feed available and how long it is likely to last (carrying capacity).
  • Calculate stocking rate (feed demand).
  • Base grazing management (includes both stocking rate and carrying capacity) on feed availability in terms of both quality and quantity; type and class of stock; how many and for how long.

Principles of Sustainable Grazing Management

It is recommended that arid zone producers focus on monitoring pasture rather than just livestock when deciding on when to adjust stocking rates. If you wait until your livestock begin to deteriorate there may be a greater investment in time and energy to get the stock back into condition. Further, the time lag in stock displaying a loss of condition and a decline in vegetation condition means that the paddock should have been spelled much earlier.

An understanding of the pasture plants’ life cycle (germination, growth, flowering and seed set) will enable you to target grazing to either suppress or promote growth of a species, or to plan stock movements. Knowing the plants’ nutritional qualities and when plants will produce green feed is also useful.

Spelling pastures (this may involve the whole paddock as the grazing management unit or only part of the paddock), prior to and during flowering and seed set will encourage a plant to produce seeds and so become more prolific. Conversely, heavy grazing at these times can suppress plant growth, reproduction and regeneration.

How does this module assist you?

This module builds on your existing knowledge of sustainable grazing management by providing you with knowledge and information on:

  • nutritional requirements/needs of different types and classes of stock and how to monitor stock condition (eg body condition scoring)
  • integrating this knowledge into your paddock and property stocking and management strategies (eg carrying capacity and stocking rates).

Linkages to other modules

This module describes and quantifies the property’s physical resources, climate, current pastures and soil nutrition status for use in Module 1: Setting directions.

Pasture growth and quality are directly linked to Module 3: Managing your natural resources and indirectly through pasture utilisation to Module 5: Weaner throughput and Module 7: Meeting market specifications.

Procedures for achieving best pasture growth and quality