Still room to get better

11 Aug, 2004 10:00 PM
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EVEN the top 5pc of livestock operations had room for improvement, farm consultant and Australian Wool Innovation director Kevin Bell said.

Mr Bell said it was important for grass farmers not to lose the fire in their bellies despite being at the top of their game.

"There's a lot of change in every system even though we might not be doing anything different," he said.

He said seasons, resource redistribution by stock, shearing time, genetics, flock structure and worms were all factors that farmers might neglect, that could have huge effects on profitability.

"You have to benchmark anything that goes into a pasture, don't forget supplements, don't neglect death rates, 8 or 10pc is not insignificant, it's a waste of grass not withstanding the welfare issues," he said.

He said the key drivers of a pasture-based system were moisture, soil fertility, soil components and structure, plant species, plant density and grazing management.

"For moisture the main thing is the length of the season," he said.

"Usually if we get a break in May or June we know it's going to be a pretty good season.

"But how as a farmer can we lengthen our growing season?"

The best way was legumes and perennials if they were possible.

"It's good to get legumes in to promote nitrogen in the soil for the crop, but also for pastures and grasses."

He said soil testing had evolved from a sufficiency test to a rations-based test within the past 10 years, but things had now reversed and sufficiency was again considered adequate.

"Putting on fertiliser is an economic decision based on good advice but it is your own decision, putting on too much fertiliser is an economic waste, so make sure you have the right concentrations.

"There's a lot of good stuff out there but don't get swayed by 'I've got a lot of money in the bank, I should be buying more fertiliser', you have to ask 'is there value for this nutrient in my soil system'?"

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