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Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Opportunities and trade-offs in dual-purpose cereals across the southern Australian mixed-farming zone: a modelling study

Andrew D. Moore
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CSIRO Plant Industry, GPO Box 1600, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia. Email: andrew.moore@csiro.au

Animal Production Science 49(10) 759-768 https://doi.org/10.1071/AN09006
Submitted: 13 January 2009  Accepted: 21 March 2009   Published: 16 September 2009

Abstract

Dual-purpose cereals are employed in the high-rainfall zone of southern Australia to provide additional winter forage. Recently there has been interest in applying this technology in the drier environments of South and Western Australia. It would therefore be useful to gain an understanding of the trade-offs and risks associated with grazing wheat crops in different locations. In this study the APSIM (Agricultural Production Systems Simulator) crop and soil simulation models were linked to the GRAZPLAN pasture and livestock models and used to examine the benefits and costs of grazing cereal crops at 21 locations spanning seven of the regions participating in the Grain & Graze research, development and extension program. A self-contained part of a mixed farm (an annual pasture–wheat rotation plus permanent pastures) supporting a breeding ewe enterprise was simulated. At each location the consequences were examined of: (i) replacing a spring wheat cultivar with a dual-purpose cultivar (cv. Wedgetail or Tennant) in 1 year of the rotation; and (ii) either grazing that crop in winter, or leaving it ungrazed.

The frequency of early sowing opportunities enabling the use of a dual-purpose cultivar was high. When left ungrazed the dual-purpose cultivars yielded less grain on average (by 0.1–0.9 t/ha) than spring cultivars in Western Australia and the Eyre Peninsula but more (by 0.25–0.8 t/ha) in south-eastern Australia. Stocking rate and hence animal production per ha could be increased proportionately more when a dual-purpose cultivar was used for grazing; because of the adjustments to stocking rates, grazing of the wheat had little effect on lamb sale weights. Across locations, the relative reduction in wheat yield caused by grazing the wheats was proportional to the grazing pressure upon them. Any economic advantage of moving to a dual-purpose system is likely to arise mainly from the benefit to livestock production in Western Australia, but primarily from grain production in south-eastern Australia (including the Mallee region). Between years, the relationship between increased livestock production and decreased grain yield from grazing crops shifts widely; it may therefore be possible to identify flexible grazing rules that optimise this trade-off.


Acknowledgements

This work was carried out as part of the Grain & Graze program of research, development and extension. Joint funding from Meat and Livestock Australia, the Grains Research and Development Corporation, Australian Wool Innovation and Land and Water Australia is gratefully acknowledged. I would also like to thank Lindsay Bell (CSIRO) for providing soil descriptions and members of various Grain & Graze regional project teams for sharing insights into the ways that dual-purpose cereals are used across Australia.


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