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Pasture and forage systems (GRAZPLAN)

Donnelly, J.R. Dr; Ph: (02) 6246 5106; Fax: (02) 6246 5255;

Research organisation: CSIRO Plant Industry, GPO Box 1600, Canberra ACT 2601

Sponsors: AWRAPO (1992 - 1998), Australian Wool Research and Promotion Organisation; Australia and Pacific Science Foundation (1990-91); MLA (current), Meat and Livestock Australia; Australian Pastoral Research Trust (current); LWRRDC (current), Land and Water Resources Research and Development Corporation.

Objective: Effective transfer of grazing management technology to the sheep and cattle industries through experimentation and computer modelling.

Methodology: The GRAZPLAN family of computer-based decision support tools - GrazFeed, GrassGro, LambAlive, MetAccess - is designed to help farmers and their advisers increase the efficiency of management decisions. The decision support tools are based on comprehensive process models that describe the biology of grazing systems. The models are generic and can be parameterised for common breeds and strains of sheep or cattle and for a range of plant species commonly found in temperate pastures. GrazFeed can be used to manage the nutrition of grazing animals on a daily basis, whereas GrassGro is more strategic and is used to evaluate pasture growth and grazing options in sheep or cattle enterprises. LambAlive can provide an estimate of the likely losses of newborn lambs as a result of inclement weather. MetAccess is a tool for analysing historical weather records and is packaged with a comprehensive database of daily weather records collected by the Bureau of Meteorology at several thousand weather stations throughout Australia. The weather database used in MetAccess is updated annually in association with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

Progress: The project provides a bridge between research into grazing systems and its application to farming practice. Most importantly, farmers can evaluate research results with the local weather, soil and managerial conditions prevailing on their individual farms before making decisions. They have also been used to study drought incidence in south-eastern Australia and to look at the way exposure to drought risk can be minimised through management. The GRAZPLAN decision support tools are marketed by Horizon Agriculture P/L and their use is increasing. In particular, GrazFeed is in extensive use in southern Australia with more than 1000 registered users.

Current research is aimed at expanding the range of pasture species that can be modelled and at developing a more robust model of plant competition. In addition a new research tool called NutriAce has been developed to link a model of nutrient cycling (P, N, S and C) to the pasture and animal models used in GrassGro. Extensive testing and further development of NutriAce is essential but eventually the nutrient cycling model will be included in GrassGro thus expanding its capability to decisions about fertiliser practice. A new decision support tool, FarmWi$e, has been developed to evaluate management decisions on mixed grazing and cropping farms. A prototype is now undergoing testing.

Period: This is an on-going project where the biological models underlying the decision support tools are updated and expanded as necessary to reflect current knowledge. The range of issues that can be examined with the decision support tools is expanding as the models become more comprehensive.

Status: on-going

Keywords: decision support tools, grazing management, GrazFeed, GrassGro, MetAccess, NutriAce, FarmWi$e, GRAZPLAN Project


Donnelly, J.R. (1997). Managing the impact of climate variability on temperate agricultural systems in southern Australia. In: R. K. Munro and L.M. Leslie (eds). Climate Prediction for Agricultural and Resource Management. Australian Academy of Science Conference, Bureau of Resource Sciences Canberra, pp 305-318.

Donnelly, J.R. and Freer, M. (1997). Analysis of simulated pasture growth in the Cooma-Monaro area for the years 1994-1996, in the context of simulated growth over the last 52 years. Report to Bureau of Resource Sciences, Canberra.

Donnelly, J.R. and Freer, M. (1998). Simulated pasture growth in the Cooma-Monaro area: an extended analysis to include weather data for 1997 and possible predation by grasshoppers over the period 1994-1997. Report to Bureau of Resource Sciences, Canberra.

Donnelly, J.R., Freer, M. and Moore, A.D. (1998). Using the GrassGro decision support tool to evaluate some objective criteria for the definition of exceptional drought. Agricultural Systems 57, 301-13.

Donnelly, J.R., Moore, A.D. and Freer, M. (1997). GRAZPLAN: decision support systems for Australian grazing enterprises. I. Overview of the GRAZPLAN project and a description of the MetAccess and LambAlive DSS. Agricultural Systems 54, 57-76.

Freer, M., Moore, A.D. and Donnelly, J.R. (1997). GRAZPLAN: decision support systems for Australian grazing enterprises. II. The animal biology model for feed intake, production and reproduction and the GrazFeed DSS. Agricultural Systems 54, 77-126.

Moore, A.D., Donnelly, J.R. and Freer, M. (1997). GRAZPLAN: decision support systems for Australian grazing enterprises. III. Pasture growth and soil moisture submodels, and the GrassGro DSS. Agricultural Systems 55, 535-582.


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