Eighty-ONE percent of farmers indicated they intended to expand the area of their properties sown to long-term pastures, 32 percent intend to increase area of dual purpose crops, 23 percent were going to increase use of hay and 3.2 percent were going to increase use of silage.
These are among findings compiled from 35 farming businesses in the NSW central west district of Tooraweenah, surveyed by Dr Belinda Hackney, Research Officer, Soils NSW Department of Primary Industries Wagga Wagga.
My interpretation of the preliminary survey data is that a high percentage of farmers are proactive and upgrading their farms.
Tooraweenah is a typical mixed farming area now experiencing a swing to more livestock production and embracing many upgrades in productivity, land management and soil care based on sound science.
Average area of land managed by the survey group was 1570ha.
On average land area was occupied by winter grain crops (14 percent), dual purpose winter crops (12 percent), and permanent sown pastures (19 percent).
Native pastures, often on non-arable country, commonly improved via fertiliser and added annual legumes, comprises much of the remaining land use.
Dr Hackney reported that producers indicated that their current feed base failed to allow them to sell or maintain livestock at the weight or condition score they desired 46 percent of the time.
Despite identified feed issues more than 70 percent indicated they were mainly turning off livestock in 'finished' rather than 'store' condition.
Producing more quality feed, especially at strategic periods like post weaning for growth and fattening, were critical.
Farmers said the capacity to produce enough feed (total herbage production) as highest ranking cause (81/100), associated closely with issues like plant nutrient deficiency (72/100) and soil acidity (69/100).
These were seen as critical restrictions on their capacity to achieve livestock production targets.
Belinda Hackney said that despite farmers noting feed base deficiencies in their current livestock enterprises a considerable number of producers intended to expand wool sheep numbers (35 percent of producers), meat sheep (32 percent) and/or beef cattle (35 percent) enterprises.
Note all these estimates were pre drought.
Fertiliser use seemed to be noted by the surveyed farmers as a key issue associated with productivity expansion.
For example, currently 58 percent of farmers used superphosphate on sown long-term mixed pasture, on average every 2.5 years (42 percent used no fertiliser).
On lucerne pastures 50 percent used single super on average every 1.6 years.
Producers rated the persistence of their long-term pastures at 65/100 and 60/100 for lucerne-only pasture. This indicates persistence issues.
Temperate perennials (lucerne and temperate perennial grasses) have a reputation in many inland slopes and plains areas for persistence problems.
Tropicals are seen as more long term persistent.
More than 80 percent of landholders reported using various degrees of rotational grazing across their pasture base.
A further 140 landholders from other central west, central tablelands and Riverina areas have been surveyed Dr Hackney reports.
These will provide an excellent base to assess current landholders view to changing enterprise and management trends.
Next week: Update on more winter crop varieties for 2019.
- Bob Freebairn is an agricultural consultant based at Coonabarabran. Email email@example.com or contact (0428) 752 149.