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It is always interesting to reflect on different management practices used by mixed farming businesses. What’s used? Why is it used? Potential benefits of use? And in some instances, why is it not used more often?

Feed budgeting is a tool and skill that is in use, but you’d have to say that uptake amongst sheep and beef managers is low. The reason for low uptake is up for debate and perhaps a topic for another day. Instead, let’s consider why it’s used and some of the benefits reported by managers that do use them.

Feed budgeting benefits

  • Knowledge – the amount of feed (pasture) likely to be available for stock as the season progresses (i.e. pasture quantity forecast).
  • Foresee consequences – assess likelihood of meeting pasture targets (e.g. point-of-lambing pasture quantities) and likely livestock performance outcomes.
  • Assessment of options – objectively assess available options to increase pasture growth and lift forecast quantities of pasture if required.
  • Confidence – understand what pasture levels are available at critical points of time in the system. A clear plan and review at critical points to determine management decisions will be implemented to achieve

 

What does a feed budget look like?

Figure 1: Example feed budget forecast showing predicted pasture cover (kg DM/ha) by month

Information needed to drive a feed budget?

  • Pasture quantity assessment to determine starting pasture quantity. Usually involves an assessment of all paddocks available for grazing to determine and average pasture cover.
  • Predictions of pasture growth rates by month. Some managers have built a history bank of previous growth rates for their own property derived from the feed budgeting process. Pasture growth rates from past trial work are also a valuable resource and guide to setting appropriate monthly growth rate figures (Google “Evergraze pasture growth rates” for an extensive list of regional growth rates for southern Australia).
  • Livestock classes, numbers of stock by class and estimates of daily pasture intake. Again, this information is widely available for various stock classes and biological states e.g. stage of pregnancy or lactation.

Through programs such as Lifetime Ewe Management, as an industry we have greatly advanced our knowledge of the production costs and consequences resulting from suboptimal livestock nutrition at key times. Feed budgeting is essentially the tool that allows managers to assess their likelihood of achieving optimal nutrition at these key times. If the budget suggests these targets are unlikely to be met, they can go ahead and simulate a range of available management options to determine the best course of action for the business.

At Meridian Agriculture we believe feed budgeting is a seriously powerful and beneficial tool for grass-based businesses. If you’d like more information or are interested to see what the use of feed budgeting can do in your business please contact James Whale and James Sewell:

James Whale – 0428 374 046 – jwhale@meridian-ag.com.au

James Sewell – 0403 546 811 – jsewell@meridian-ag.com.au

Article by James Whale