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South Australian research helps graziers to manage changing climatic conditions

Source(s):  South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI)

South Australian research has ensured graziers are better equipped to manage climate variability and climate change over the next 20 years.

The South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) Climate Applications team has been researching for the past three years how climate change and seasonal variability will affect pasture growth and livestock operations. This research is part of the Australian Government’s $46.2 million Climate Change Research program (CCRP).

Research has been conducted with a range of livestock producers located across South Australia in varying climatic conditions.

SARDI Senior Scientist Melissa Rebbeck said the strength of the current climate research programs was a focus on finding practical adaptation options that could be directly applied to grazing enterprises on a local and regional level. These adaptations aimed to maintain or increase profitability while maintaining sustainability.

“Producers will be able to consider how different adaptation options might have real benefits for their own enterprise now and into the future,” Ms Rebbeck said.

“Some of the impacts facing graziers over the next 15 to 20 years are shorter growing seasons, greater variability in pasture growth, reduced pasture quality and less available pasture. There will also be a reduction in wool quality, and high heat days will reduce livestock production.

Ms Rebbeck considered adaptations used by 300 livestock producers and tested the most common adaptations using the computer model Grass Gro. Adaptations tested included varying stocking rates, lambing/calving dates, weaning dates, pasture mix, soil types, sale dates and enterprise types.

Grass Gro is a simulation model that incorporates local rainfall, temperature, radiation and carbon dioxide projections as well as soil, pasture and livestock performance paramters. It allows livestock managers to review management decisions under a changing and variable climate without actually having to physically implement them on farm and then wait for the result. On return visits 150 producers were shown the results from Grass Gro, which demonstrated the outcomes of their management. The producers then discussed the practicality of these adaptations and advised which ones they intended to implement.

The adaptations tested and accepted by these livestock producers included:

- Minimise the need for supplementary feed by reviewing lambing and calving times, age at first joining, stocking rates, sale times.

- Increase flexibility in their systems to respond to seasonal conditions by varying sale times/rules, confinement feeding, stock movement, more animal trading (core breeding), self replacing system, agistment and matching livestock feed demand to pasture production.

- Improve pasture utilisation by grazing management systems including controlled, cell, rotational, confinement, or movement of stock and maintaining pasture growth in phase II.

Ms Rebbeck said that although seasons may be shorter and pasture growth compromised, the adaptations demonstrate how graziers could increase profitability and maintain sustainability in the future.

Further information: Melissa Rebbeck 8303 9636 or SARDI Communications Terry Price 8303 9433 or 0423 292867

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  • Publication date 03 May 2012

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