Report Synopsis

Integrating Livestock into a Continuous Cropping System in a High Rainfall Environment

Stuart McDonald

The desire to more efficiently utilise every drop of rain that falls lead to the exploration of the integration of livestock into a continuous cropping system in a high rainfall environment.

The addition of livestock to a continuous cropping system has the potential to generate extra income, improve water utilisation, promote nutrient cycling and lower risks for high upfront cost enterprises.

Soil health improvement was one of the more unexpected benefits associated with livestock introduction to a continuous cropping enterprise. It was the sole reason for adopting livestock into a cropping system for many of the farms visited as part of the research.

Management of the five soil health principles underpins any improvement of soil properties including water retention.

Grazing offers opportunity to grow a more diverse rotation. A grazing ‘crop’ allows versatility in planting times and harvest. Extending what can be the busiest times of year on farm and spreading the workload into more manageable pieces. Grazing crops can add fertility, organic matter, and rotation options in terms of weed control for a paddock.

Extra management, infrastructure, expertise and labour is involved in introducing animals into a cropping system. Livestock can quickly turn plant growth, generated at any time of the year, into money. Higher rainfall provides greater opportunity to generate income. With better utilisation of rainfall as it falls there is scope to increase the returns generated per 100mm of rainfall received, minimise salinity (leakage from the system), stop erosion, and improve the dynamic properties of soil within every land managers control.

Rotational crop diversity has more options for income generation than grain only systems. Diversity in crop rotation can give a more robust and resilient farming system.

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