Building a successful small diversified or mixed farming operation, requires careful management of the grazing crops and livestock the farm produces. The proper balance of crop types and the optimal utilisation of cropping tools and implements can provide farmers and graziers numerous benefits as well as more flexible management of their operations.
According to New South Wales Agriculture’s “The Grazier’s Guide to Pastures”, an ideal mix of pastureland features introduced grasses, native grasses, and legumes. This allows for perennial regrowth while also supplementing with specialised plants or annuals to fill in nutritional gaps. The pasture’s mix is often described as 70% grasses and 30% legumes, but some variation in proportion is possible due to soil conditions and plant populations within the grazing area.
It can be a challenge to seed protein-rich legumes like vetches, clovers and lucerne into established native grassland. But for many graziers, the paybacks are immense. Not only can graziers see improved animal performance on mixed grasses and legumes versus just shrubby stylo (up to 90kg/head/year), but they can improve the growing quality of the paddock itself.
The nitrogen cycling and fixation capabilities of legumes can improve growth of all forages in native grass pastures by up to 30%. This increase comes from not only the addition of the legume’s volume to the production ration, but also the boost legumes’ nitrogen-fixing roots and rhizomes provide to the grasses that share paddock soils with them. These grasses show both better overall growth – leaf development and edible parts – as well as higher nutritional quality of the grass as a whole when inter-seeded with legumes.
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