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The wool production zones of Australia ii. perennial pasture zone - productivity & pasture problems

R. Young

"Summerville", Westbury, TAS 7303


This paper describes the topographically diverse sheep production zones of Tasmania including: the Central Plateau (summer grazing only); the Midlands; and the Coastal Zones. Seasonal variability is illustrated by comparing the past few years with long-term averages, particularly for Central Northern Tasmania where our farm is located. The physical features (topography, soil types, rainfall, water availability) and infrastructure (stock water and irrigation facilities, pasture/bush blocks, internal laneways etc.) are described. We have made significant improvements to our farm over the past decade which was in a general run down condition when we moved here in August 1980.

Pasture renovation was commenced to improve soil fertility and change species mixtures to suit various soil types. Soil analysis formed a critical part of this program as trace element deficiencies restrict livestock performance in this area. All our fertiliser inputs are based on soil tests. Aspects of pasture management throughout the season are discussed including block grazing, hay-making, irrigation, weed problems, and attacks by grubs. Dung beetles have proved beneficial to pasture production, and worms will be introduced in the near future.

Pastures and crops are integrated into our farm operation. Initially oil poppies, canning peas, turnips and rape were the main cash and fodder crops but seed mustard, seed cabbages, esk oats and concord ryegrass were sown last year.

Livestock activities integrate wool sheep and cattle fattening enterprises. Changes in stocking rates for 1980 and 1991 are compared. Replacement ewes and wethers (Merino breed) are bred on the property but cattle are purchased as required. Block grazing of sheep and cattle form an integral part of our management plan. Mechanics of the system are outlined including: length of paddock rotation, day by day running; and strategies during the winter period. The benefits of block grazing include: enhanced soil fertility; reduced herbicide use due to less thistle invasion; reduced drenching program; and supplementary feeding strategies are discussed.

Current economic circumstances have caused us to change our farm management plan: cash cropping was expanded after several years break; sheep culling and footrot strategies have been revised; and cattle fattening increased at the expense of sheep numbers due to reduced wool income.

Higher producing and more grub resistant pasture varieties (e.g. cocksfoot compared to rye grasses etc.) are viewed as high priority research areas. strategies to improve and manage soil structure to sustain crop yields are also required.

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