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

Productivity and profitability of forage options for beef production in the subtropics of northern Australia

M. K. Bowen A C , F. Chudleigh B , S. Buck A and K. Hopkins A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, PO Box 6014, Red Hill, Rockhampton, Qld 4701, Australia.

B Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Toowoomba, Qld 4350, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: maree.bowen@daf.qld.gov.au

Animal Production Science - https://doi.org/10.1071/AN16180
Submitted: 23 March 2016  Accepted: 25 August 2016   Published online: 23 November 2016

Abstract

This study measured forage biomass production, diet quality, cattle liveweight gain, and economic performance of six forage types at 21 sites across 12 commercial beef cattle properties in the Fitzroy River catchment of Queensland during 2011–2014 (28 annual datasets in total). The forages were annual forage crops (oats (Avena sativa), sorghum (Sorghum spp.) and lablab (Lablab purpureus)), sown perennial legume-grass pastures (leucaena-grass (Leucaena leucocephala spp. glabrata + perennial, tropical grass (C4) species) and butterfly pea-grass (Clitoria ternatea + perennial, C4, grass species)), and perennial, C4, grass pastures. The sown forages resulted in 1.2–2.6 times the annual cattle liveweight gain per ha than perennial grass pastures. Annual cattle liveweight gain per ha, forage establishment and management costs, and cattle price margin (sale price less purchase price, $/kg liveweight) all influenced gross margin, however, none was an overriding factor. The average gross margins ($/ha.annum) calculated using contractor rates, ranked from highest to lowest, were: leucaena-grass pastures, 181; butterfly pea-grass pastures, 140; oats, 102; perennial grass, 96; sorghum, 24; and lablab, 18. It was concluded that the tendency towards greater average gross margins for perennial legume-grass pastures than for annual forage crops or perennial grass pastures was the result of the combined effects of lower average forage costs and high cattle productivity.

Additional keywords: dryland cropping, tropical forages, tropical pastures.


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