Getting the best from perennials

Getting the best from perennials

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Grazing management trainer, Graeme Hand gets close to his subject at a "walk and talk" session at Jingellic.

Grazing management trainer, Graeme Hand gets close to his subject at a "walk and talk" session at Jingellic.

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People ask how do they make money out of native grasses? They are not very productive. But Graeme Hand says they make money every year - you just have to manage their use well.

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PASTURE restoration through grazing in a low cost - low risk business design seems a lot of words, but Graeme Hand makes it easy as he shares the science and field-proven information on alternative and adaptive farming systems.

It's based on what to look for, what to measure and monitor, and what to do next.

This modified version of planned grazing was demonstrated during a pasture restoration paddock walk and talk at the Davis family's Glenside, Jingellic, recently.

"What I do is show strip grazing with the right software behind it," Mr Hand said.

"And also being able to recognise when perennial grasses are fully recovered and ready to be

grazed.

"It's all CSIRO research. I"m not making all of this up."

Mr Hand said his simple explanation was to put animals into an area when the perennial grasses are fully recovered and look like ungrazed plants and contain fresh yellow litter.

"Then you take those animals out based on their gut-fill and dung scores," he said.

"This means you get the land looking better, but also get animal performance that you need to be profitable."

Using photo standards, Mr Hand shows all the scoring systems.

"Perennial grass recovery is driven by leaf emergence rates," he said.

"What I look for is how many leaves have died, because those dead leaves are what drives the nutrient cycling.

"Some dairy farmers don't let leaves die, they graze when green, but don't realise dead leaves need to get to the soil surface. That's the way we get nutrients cycling because it provides the carbon for the life in the soil which then drives the nutrient cycle."

Scoring

To know when to take stock off the paddock look at the gut-fill scores on the left-hand side of the animal's body, where the triangle is.

"When looking at scoring we check if they have a full rumen," Mr Hand said.

"If around 20 per cent are hollowing, they are starting to not be full and they need to be shifted to the next area.

"If dung is loose or runny, it's because the perennial grass is too young. It it's balled-up, like horse manure, then the grass is too high in fibre, lower in protein and energy.

"So we are using those outputs to monitor how the animals are going."

Grazing time is dependent on the animals' condition.

They are only put in if grasses have recovered, then the focus shifts completely to the animals.

Monitoring the paralumbar fossa for gut fill

WHEN perennial grasses are green and when animals shift from eating green matter to picking up litter off the ground, the gut-fill score will be dropping very quickly and is a monitoring point animal owners need to watch for when grazing perennial grasses.

Holistic land management training consultant, Graeme Hand, says that is a monitoring point letting graziers know that their animals will start to bare-off the land and it's time to move them.

"If around 20 per cent of your animals are showing hollow by looking at the left-hand triangle on the body, the paralumbar fossa, it's time to move them to the next area," Mr Hand said.

"Perennial grasses are different in different areas, but Tim Davis' Glenside, Jingellic, has a lot of introduced grasses and a lot of native grasses, a good mix."

Mr Hand was conducting a pasture restoration paddock walk and talk at Glenside recently, and discussed the science of using animals alone to regenerate pastures and restore function to the land, and what people are doing designing a business around that.

The chief executive officer of STIPA Native Grasses Association, Mr Hand is also director of Hands of the Land, training consultancy.

"How do you use animals alone to regenerate pastures and restore function of your land?," he asks.

"We need to increase the stocking density but also increase the recovery time between grazings," he said.

"I talk of this theory and then discuss how to lower-risk our business.

"People ask how do they make money out of native grasses? They (grasses) are not very productive.

"But I say they make money every year - you just have to manage their use well."

  • Contact Graeme Hand: graemehand9@gmail.com
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