More Beef from Pastures Manual – Pasture Utilisation

Resource Created By: Meat & Livestock Australia

Resource Developed in 2022

This resource focuses on the utilisation of high-quality green pasture. Increasing the use of green pasture can be the most cost-effective way of lifting productivity for the majority of beef enterprises. Grazing managers should aim to convert the largest amount of pasture energy and nutrients into saleable beef while leaving pasture residue in the best condition for rapid regrowth.

Precise control of grazing pressure and herd structure across a total grazed area can achieve utilisation of up to 60% of green pasture grown in areas where the summer dry period is relatively short and there is some green pick over summer. Examples of these areas are Western Victoria and South Gippsland. This level is higher than current industry estimates of 30–40% utilisation of total green pasture grown. Sustainable utilisation targets of 40–48% are suitable for areas with an extended dry period greater than 150 days and very little summer feed on annual grass-based pastures or clover-based pastures. The dairy industry is achieving pasture utilisation levels of 65–70%; however, dairy farms are generally located in a longer growing season zone or have irrigation and can supplementary feed with grain very easily.

In a beef situation, the cost of supplements (hay or grain) often comes directly off the bottom line and there is a significant period of little or no pasture growth. The level to which pasture utilisation can be improved in a beef enterprise depends on enterprise type (ie breeding herd versus trading enterprise), length of dry period and pasture type. In a beef trading enterprise, pasture utilisation of 50–60% is possible in most environments, if limited stock are carried over the dry period. In a breeding operation, a sustainable pasture utilisation of 40–55% is possible, depending on pasture type.

Tables 1–4 works through an example of the amount of pasture required at the start of summer to maintain a given stocking rate. The first point is to maximise the amount of pasture grown, allocate the feed to the correct livestock class and determine the level of utilisation that fits your environment and production system (trading versus breeding enterprise).

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