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The wool production zones of Australia in. the annual pasture zone - productivity & pasture problems

J. Young

"Yannawah", Kojonup, WA 6395


Current management, what & why: This paper outlines the climate, soils and pastures of the Great Southern Region in WA. The pasture types and 'average' system used by producers are described. Compared to the average extensive sheep farmer in the annual pasture zone of Western Australia, we have developed a more intensive management program. This is detailed along with production figures and inputs over the last four years to illustrate how the management program has developed. We have taken this approach not only for economic survival, but also for personal achievement.

The emphasis in this management program is on wool production from grass/clover pastures, often to the detriment of the cropping program (15% cropped to oats, half sold and the other half used for supplementary feeding). We previously ran 35% Merino breeding ewes (in a cooperative breeding scheme), but while developing the new management program we have reduced ewe numbers to 8% and use more dry sheep, a proportion of which are bought in each year. Once the system is in place we expect to increase the ewe numbers again. Lambing is in July and shearing January/February. Over the next few years we will concentrate on better use of fertilisers, conservation of the spring surplus, introduction of different species and more resowing of pasture.

Future directions: Future developments in technology require us to take a long term view on likely trends in agriculture. Among these are two alternatives we need to evaluate. The first is the continued use of high input systems (eg. high fertiliser) which may be unsustainable in the medium term (50-100 years). The second is to develop more sustainable low-input technologies, though these at the moment appear less productive and still have to be defined. Given these two directions future research should target the following:

Emphasis on animals as an integral part of pasture management systems - they can complement cultural practices whilst growing wool etc.,

Development of discrete packages of information which producers can piece together into systems which suit their unique physical and economic environments - we need to clearly understand the biology of these packages,

Provide better economic assessment of new technology as producers are reluctant to adopt new systems unless convinced of their economic viability - both long- and short-term gains need to be considered.

More emphasis needs to be placed on extension. Without extension research is basically useless.

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