Improving farming practices in high rainfall zones

The EverGraze project set out to significantly increase whole-farm profitability while helping farmers maintain groundcover and reduce salinity risk through increased water use.

An outcome of the Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Centre (FFI CRC), EverGraze’s achievements have been significant; including leading more than 4400 farms, across at least 900,000 hectares, to change their practices. Those farmers – and the nation – have been rewarded by a 10 per cent increase in lamb weaning, and production of four million extra kilograms of lamb and 20 million extra kilograms of beef.

The project has seen the development of five EverGraze decision tools for farmers; production of new acid tolerant perennial species crops and cultivars which will significantly reduce groundwater recharge, and regional packages designed to deliver evidence-based outcomes in easily accessible format.

To achieve the goal, the project developed and applied a set of principles for the design and implementation of grazing systems which integrated combinations of strategically placed perennial pastures (improved and native), high performance livestock genotypes, animal and pasture management, and mixtures of enterprises –  both meat and wool.

The EverGraze project was built around a number of key principles:

  1. The right plant put in the right place for the right purpose with the right management, improves profitability and natural resource management simultaneously;
  2. Strategic investment in perennials needs to be combined with high performance livestock and optimum tactical management to achieve desired outcomes;
  3. The right combination of perennial species across the farm and their management creates flexibility and options to reduce seasonal risk and create market options.

National thinking, regional delivery

To ensure the information delivered to farmers was relevant and meaningful to their unique farm system, EverGraze developed regionally relevant information for farmers. These regional guides quantify the productivity, economic, environment, risk and lifestyle impacts of implementing changes on farm in five high rainfall (600-700mm) regions – South Coast WA, North West Slopes NSW, Central Tablelands NSW, South West Victoria (Lower), and the combined South West Slopes NSW, North East Victoria and South West Victoria (Upper).

The Regional Packages provide information which takes into account the region’s soils, climate, pastures, livestock systems, and key production and environmental issues.

“EverGraze stretches over a wide geographical footprint so we needed to put a framework around interpretation and application in different regions and environments,” said Chris Mirams, who chaired the EverGraze National Advisory Committee for eight years and is now a consultant. “For example; whilst the principles are the same in Hamilton as they  are in Orange, the key messages need to be tailored to each local farming system.

“Many farmers when faced with new research information query how the research will fit into their farming situation. With the EverGraze Regional Packages, it gives people a pathway to see and understand how that research is useful and relevant for their farm,” Mr Mirams said.

Article written by the Department of Industry. Click here for the original.