Animal Production Science Animal Production Science Society
Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals

Turning knowledge into practical benefit: a producer case-study increasing the return on investment in science

T. H. Johnson
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Bantry Grove, Newbridge, NSW 2795, Australia. Email:

Animal Production Science 58(4) 744-755
Submitted: 22 January 2016  Accepted: 16 November 2016   Published: 13 February 2017


The present paper addresses turning knowledge into practical benefit; acknowledging a critical emphasis of the career of John L. Black. Average efficiency of pasture use by beef enterprises in southern Australia is historically ~35%. Two projects established in 2002 showed that the efficiency of pasture use could approach 90% and the conservative rates observed were due to a low adoption of existing knowledge and the perceived risks from intensification. A risk-control management system, ‘More Beef from Pastures’, was developed from these projects, to identify management practices that had the largest impacts on productivity and profitability, the variables that needed to be measured and the upper and lower limits for those measurements to optimise enterprise performance. The principles from that system were incorporated into a productivity and economic spreadsheet model for a beef enterprise near Blayney on the Central Tablelands of New South Wales. The present paper reports the effects on productivity and profitability of several management scenarios, including current practice with 180 breeding cows and progeny sold in the second year after birth; buying and selling steers; making silage; or combinations of steers and silage, to maintain pasture availability between 1200 and 2600 kg DM/ha. Simulations were conducted for rainfall and growth of a phalaris–subterranean clover pasture predicted for the Blayney climate by the Sustainable Grazing Systems model for the Years 2000–2011. The simulations covered eight consecutive years from 2002 to 2009, when mean pasture growth was only 70% of the average. Results from the simulations for current practice were similar to those observed for the enterprise. The simulations showed the importance on profitability of utilising excess pasture in years of high pasture growth. The highest average profitability across years resulted from the scenario involving purchase and sale of steers, but year-to-year fluctuations were large and significant capital was required. The silage and steer-silage scenarios were intermediate in profitability, and depended on initial silage reserves and numbers of breeding cows. The exercise demonstrated that a simple spreadsheet model based on principles of animal nutrition, pasture management and economics was needed to fully evaluate alternative management strategies for practical benefit on existing beef enterprises.

Additional keywords: beef cattle, enterprise profitability, pasture utilisation, risk control.


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Perspectives on animal research and its application.CrossRef |

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