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Methods and Economics of Pasture Establishment in the 1980’s

M.H. Campbell

Principal Research Scientist, Agricultural Research & Veterinary Centre,
Orange. N.S.W. 2800

and D. T. Vere, Senior Economist, Department of Agriculture, Orange. N.S.W. 2800

In the past, pasture establishment was often undertaken with a less than desirable attitude, i.e., sowing into rough seedbeds; sowing at less than optimum times; sowing seed with superphosphate when the super plane arrived in January; and in all cases hoping for the best but in many cases experiencing the worst. Because establishment costs were then considerably less than they are today, the penalties associated with failure were relatively small. In recent years the costs of establishing and maintaining pastures have escalated; for example, the costs of establishing improved pastures in a prepared seedbed are currently between $95-$100 per hectare. Hence today’s pasture establishment programme must be carefully planned and managed to reduce the risk of financial loss.

The continued prosperity of the New South Wales livestock industries is very much dependent on the establishment and maintenance of pasture productivity. Whilst the State has experienced a rapid expansion in the area of established pastures over the last 30 years (which has permitted substantial productivity increases in the livestock industries), there has been an important decline in pasture quantity and quality in many areas. The total area of sown grasses and clovers is currently estimated at 4.7 million ha, a decline of some 13% from the peak 5.4 million ha of 1974-75. This decline has been accentuated in the more ‘traditional’ livestock areas such as the central and southern tablelands where the total area of sown grasses and clovers declined 8% between 1979-80 and 1980-81. In the same areas, sheep and cattle numbers and wool production are currently at their lowest levels since the mid 1950’s.

Drought, soil acidification, insect pests, nitrophilous weeds (thistles, capeweed, Paterson’s curse, annual grasses) have been contributing factors and there is little doubt that continuing adverse economic conditions have reduced the ability and willingness of producers to invest in pasture establishment programmes. Additionally, specialist livestock producers have faced an unfavourable long-run trend in their cost-price structure which has an important bearing on pasture establishment decisions since expenditure on pasture inputs (seed, fertilizer and herbicides) is highly variable and closely correlated to fluctuations in farm income.

This experience should lead us to re-assess the aims of future pasture establishment. Perhaps more emphasis should be placed on persistence and botanical stability of pastures than on production, meaning the use of perennial species rather than annuals (which in turn means more attention will have to be paid to pasture establishment because perennials are more difficult to establish than annuals). Also, it means that the purpose for which a pasture is sown should be clearly defined before sowing; e.g. to control weeds or erosion; as a crop rotation and soil fertility builder; to increase production on acid soils; to resist insects or diseases; to utilise non-arable land for pastures whilst using arable land for crops.

The agronomy and economics of improved pasture establishment are discussed in the following sections.

1. Methods

The three main methods of pasture establishment, conventional cultivation, direct drilling and surface sowing are reviewed below. For more details see: Campbell (1969); Carter and Saunders (1969); Southwood et al. (1982).

1.1 Conventional Cultivation

1.1.1 Seedbed Preparation

Moisture - Cultivation increases soil permeability, oxygen content and nitrate formation, all of which assist the growth of seedlings (Singh and Pollard 1956). The value of cultivation in retaining moisture in the seedbed stems mainly from killing weeds rather than from protection provided by a loose surface mulch (Russell 1952; Kohn et al. 1966); thus complete weed removal is a major objective.

Competition - A major aim in cultivation should be the complete removal of competition, by using herbicides to augment cultivation if necessary.

Tilth - On most soils, emergence of sown species is usually better if the seedbed has a fine tilth (0.7 to 6 mm diameter) than if it has a coarse tilth (6 to 30 mm) (Thow 1963; Lazenby and Schiller 1969). Emergence can be increased on seedbeds with a coarse tilth if good rain falls or if irrigation is provided. A fine tilth also increases weed emergence which will allow more thorough control by further cultivation or use of herbicides (Arai and Chisaka 1959).

A fine tilth on a sandy soil can result in low emergence because the soil structure is usually destroyed, bulk density increased, aeration reduced and water infiltration impeded. A disadvantage of creating a fine tilth is that serious erosion can result. Surface mulching can protect fine-tilth seedbeds (Carter 1969). An alternative to fine-tilth seedbeds is the use of direct drilling.

Soil crusts - Some fine-tilth seedbeds form impenetrable crusts which restrict seedling emergence to cracks in the soil surface (Arndt 1965). On Riverina clay soils which form crusts, gypsum applied in the irrigation water delays the drying and thus crusting of the soil surface which in turn facilitates emergence (Davidson and Quirk 1961).

Penetration of roots is impeded by increasing soil strength (hardness) (Taylor and Gardner 1963). Roots generally worm their way through pores or cracks in the soil or push soft wet soils aside. Cultivated seedbeds have the advantage over uncultivated seedbeds in that the soil is soft and easily penetrated by roots which allows faster seedling development and thus greater survival if conditions become unfavourable.

Depth of p1oughing - Turning weed seeds near the soil surface to depths (10 cm) from which they can’t emerge is an advantage of cultivation. However, it must be ensured that infertile or problem soils are not brought to the surface. This can be done by having soil tests carried out at depths down the profile.

Soil fertility and soil temperature - Cultivation causes a decline in soil organic matter through: reduced replenishment of plant remains; increased oxidation of organic matter; and increased soil temperature. Shading the soil surface by mulching will reduce organic matter loss by reducing soil temperature (Carter 1969).

Prolonged cultivation reduces soil nitrogen and sulphur levels. This can be overcome by fallowing which provides short term benefits through increased levels of: soil moisture, nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. On the other hand fallowing can lead to soil erosion and other problems.

Soil fauna - Cultivation causes a temporary decline in earthworm populations but helps control field crickets, underground grass caterpillars, pasture cockchafers, seed harvesting ants and mice (Carter 1965).

Long term effects - Ryegrass and white clover were found to be superior eight years after thorough cultivation than after light cultivation in Britain (Rowlands 1966). In Australia, yield of phalaris was higher three years after mouldboard ploughing than after chisel ploughing (1-Lutchings 1967).

1.1.2 Sowing

Depth - Results of trials in U.S.A. over 24 years have shown that shallow sowing of grasses (6-13 mm) and lucerne (13 mm) gives best establishment (Sund et al. 1966). Soil type influences sowing depth: generally it is better to sow shallower on clay soils than on sandy soils (Table 1).

TABLE 1 - Emergence of cocksfoot and lucerne as a % of viable seed sown on three different soil types.













































However the shallower the sowing the more likely moisture will become limiting in the seedbed. In Western Australian sands it is necessary to sow subterranean clover deeply (25 to 38 mm) to avoid death of the establishing seedling due to drying out of the seedbed (Toms 1958). A similar procedure may be prudent in the self mulching black soils of N.S.W.

In general seed size determines from what depth the seedling will emerge; the larger the seed the deeper it can be sown.

Precision placement - With precision placement of lucerne seed at optimum depth the mean establishment of lucerne was 62% compared to the normal 32% establishment when the seed was randomly placed from the soil surface to 32 mm deep (Sund et al. 1966). New sowing machines that allow for precision placement should thus improve establishment.

Band sowing -Sowing seed 25mm above and to the side of the fertilizer improves establishment in dry seasons (Sund et al. 1966) because the deeper placement of fertilizer in the moist soil zone makes it available during dry periods when fertilizer near the soil surface is unavailable.

Rolling a seedbed before or after sowing is valuable under dry conditions, especially in sandy soils. Rolling presses seed and soil together giving better moisture relations. The value of rolling decreases as planting depth of lucerne increases beyond 6 mm (Triplett and Tesar 1960). In some soils rolling can form a soil crust which reduces establishment.

Companion crops generally compete with the pasture for moisture) nutrients and light and can reduce establishment and seed set in the first year. In some sandy soils companion crops are useful to hold the soil in place while the pasture establishes.

However, companion crops can be useful in good seasons if: the seeding rate of the crop is reduced by 50% to 75%; the crop is grazed; the crop and pasture are sown in separate rows; the area is managed for the pasture and not for the crop (Southwood et al. 1982).

Spring sown phalaris - Sowing phalaris in August or September after a heavily grazed oat crop has been successful even in dry years (Hutchings 1967). This technique allows the area to be grazed during winter and to be cleared of weeds by the crop. Legumes can be sown into the phalaris the following autumn or winter.

1.2 Direct Drilling

Direct drilling has advantages over conventional cultivation in: reduced soil erosion; use of semi-arable land; minimum loss of grazing; reduced energy requirement; improved soil moisture by reducing moisture loss in soil preparation, reduced run-off and evaporation; reduced labour; and lower machinery investment (Phillips 1982). The disadvantages are: higher rodent and insect populations; and the management ability of the grower must be better.

1.2.1 Seedbed Preparation

The best selection for the first attempt at direct drilling is a fertile paddock that has recently been cropped (Mon. 1981). The paddock should be small enough to allow crash grazing to control weeds in the year after sowing should the need arise.

This paddock should be grazed hard prior to spraying and treated with herbicides after the autumn break when weeds are 2 to 8 cm high. A short break between the cessation of grazing and spraying allows new clean weed growth to appear which will improve the effect of herbicides.

Handling stubble needs action during the harvest prior to sowing the pasture by ensuring even distribution of straw from the header (Anon. 1981). Where desired, stubble can be removed by burning or, on small areas, by slashing. Special drilling machines may be necessary if it is desired to retain heavy stubble for erosion control and moisture retention.

The secret of success with direct drilling is the control of competition by using herbicides (Table 2).

TABLE 2 - Establishment of Improved Species by Direct Drilling


Site 1

Site 2











+ herbicide







- herbicide







Site 1 was an old pasture

Site 2 was a paddock cropped the year before sowing.

Source - Campbell and McDonald, unpublished data.

1.2.2 Sowing

With the more rapidly acting non-residual herbicides, sowing can take place three days after spraying where the weed infestation is light and the soil friable (Anon. 1981). On compacted soils with dense weed cover a period of 10-20 days maybe necessary to permit breakdown of the weeds (“root release”) and allow penetration of the cultivator or drilling machinery.

If slower acting residual herbicides are used a period of 15-40 days between spraying and sowing may be necessary to allow the herbicides to dissipate; the shorter period if good rain falls soon after spraying, the longer period if it remains dry.

The timing of herbicide application should be determined in relation to the optimum time of sowing. For direct drilling the optimum time of sowing is generally later than for a conventional seedbed because there is generally less protection from the seedbed for seed sown into a direct drilled area. Thus sowing time in most tableland and slope situations would range April through September. The optimum time of sowing in southern N.S.W. and Victoria was found, from two years of trials, to be mid to late winter (Stonebridge and Raybone, personal communication).

Seed is best sown to a depth of 10 to 15 mm in moist, soft seedbed with a machine that will: create a mini seedbed with no smearing along the slot; sow at even depths in humps and hollows; cover seed; separate seed from fertilizer; accurately sow seed and fertilizer; and in some cases, cope with heavy trash or rocky seedbeds.

There are a number of machines that are suitable for direct drilling (McDonald and Duncan 1983). The spring release combine is suitable where the soil is soft and moist but is unsuitable when drilling into old perennial grass pastures. Tyned drills are similarly useful but their use can be extended by using special boots (e.g. the Baker boot), and high tensile spring tynes. These machines are inferior to disc drills or triple disc drills in heavy trash or compacted soil situations.

The Baker boot assists in the correct placement of seed but at present it wears quickly in sandy soil and breaks easily in stoney soil - problems that can be overcome.

Triple disc drills work well on light soils but on heavy soils smearing of the sides of the slot and failure of the slot to close can reduce establishment.

With all machines, establishment is improved if the ribbon of soil cut out of the seedbed does not fall back into the slot. In hilly country the ribbon of soil can be consistently thrown down hill away from the slot when using disc drills. However, it is most advantageous to have a small quantity of soil crumbs to cover the sown seed in the slot.

1.3 Surface Sowing

Establishing pastures on non-arable land can be accomplished by using aerial techniques to apply herbicide, seed and fertilizer (Campbell 1980). Herbicides are not needed in the establishment of annual legumes but are essential for the establishment of perennial grasses and legumes.

The first paddock chosen should be small enough to allow ‘crash grazing’ and have reasonably fertile soil. Perhaps the ideal paddock is one that has had sufficient superphosphate to allow annual legumes to improve fertility but not enough to encourage nitrophilous weeds. However, improvement of land that has had no superphosphate or has had so much that nitrophilous weeds dominate, is quite practicable. Avoid areas with acid soil or where nitrophilous weeds have established on low fertility soil high in aluminium.

Soil tests - Understanding your soil by using soil tests is essential when using any method of pasture establishment. Soil tests have some disadvantages but combined with the new plant test discovered by Dr. D. Bouma, C.S.I.R.O., a good picture of your soil fertility can be obtained. The plant test for phosphorous levels should be available for landholders to use later this year.


Establishing pastures from sowing on top of the ground is more difficult than from sowing under the ground so more care should be taken, not less.

1.3.1 Seedbed Preparation

Native perennial grass - Allow the dead seedheads of native grasses to remain standing - this amount of plant litter assists establishment. Litter that stands vertically is helpful but litter that lies horizontally is a hindrance to establishment.

Nitrophilous weeds - Prepare the paddock one or two years ahead of sowing by: grazing hard to reduce seeding; spraying thistles, especially saffron, so dead stalks will not be present at spraying; burning annual grasses just after seed set but before seed drop (if possible); using the spray-top technique to stop annual grasses seeding; using the spray-graze technique to control broadleaf weeds.

In the year of sowing, graze hard before and after the autumn break. If there is an early autumn break, which means relatively early sowing (May), it is best to treat a hill with a northerly or westerly aspect. If the autumn break is late, which means late sowing (July), it is best to treat an easterly or southerly aspect.

Spraying - It is essential to kill all weeds for as long as possible in the year of sowing. Thus the right herbicide applied at the correct rate is essential for success (Campbell and McDonald 1979; Campbell et al. 1981). Selecting the correct herbicide is usually a job for an expert. The range of herbicides used include:

2,2-DPA + amitrole; 2,2-DPA + 2,4-D; glyphosate; paraquat + diquat.

Timing - The best time for aerial sowing of pastures is late May, thus herbicides are best applied 10 to 30 days before sowing to allow residual effects of herbicides to disappear. If rain falls soon after spraying (1 to 5 days after) sowing can take place 10 days later. However, it is essential to have at least 6 hours of dry weather after the application of most herbicides.

Aerial spraying procedures - herbicides should be applied early in the morning when evaporation is low. It is essential that the aircraft flies in a direction to ensure a cross breeze (maximum about 8 km/hr) to distribute the spray. If there is no breeze check for an inversion layer by lighting a. smokey fire - if the smoke drifts horizontally 5 to 20 m above the ground, don’t spray. If there is no inversion layer or if the breeze is following the aircraft’s flight direction, reduce swath width by one-third. Calibration of the aircraft before spraying, good landholder-pilot liaison, large droplets (>200 microns) and marking, improve results (Campbell 1980).

1.3.2 Sowing

The optimum time for aerial sowing is late May (Campbell 1980), however, at lower altitudes (500 m) it can be extended through June and at higher altitudes (1000 m) through August.

Split sowings are useful to reduce the risk of seed being desiccated after germination. Sow half the seed in late May and the remainder after the first lot has germinated.

Aerial sowing procedure - When seed and fertilizer are aerially distributed together the seed spreads less than two-thirds the width of the fertilizer. To overcome this, reduce swath width by half.

When seed is sown alone the aircraft must be fitted with wing pods or a seeding venturi and calibrated on the ground before sowing. Sow from a height of 60 m, in cross winds less than 11 km/hr and mark to guide the pilot.

2. Fertilizers

A seedling of subterranean clover exhausts its seed supply of phosphorous in 10 days (Krigel 1967) whilst a seedling of ryegrass has little food reserve after 7 days (Anslow 1962). As establishing seedlings take up nutrients within four days of imbibition (McWilliam et al. 1970), fertilizers should be applied with the seed (not before, as competitors have the advantage and not afterwards as the establishing seedlings will be suffering).

Phosphorous has been reported to be more effective than nitrogen or potassium in promoting early growth of pasture seedlings (Wagner 1956) although small amounts of the latter two in combination with phosphorous can assist establishment. Nitrogenous fertilizers can assist grass establishment provided they are not banded with the seed; however, even moderate rates of nitrogen can reduce legume establishment.


The best pasture species should be chosen for the purpose required, taking into account long term production. For example, it is better to sow strong perennial grasses or legumes for long term thistle control than it is to sow annuals or weak perennials (Table 3).

TABLE 3 - Control of thistles by sowing improved species

Sown species

Dry weight of variegated thistle two years after sowing a pasture

Dry weight of true scotch thistle six years after sowing a pasture












Wimmera rye



Perennial rye






ns: not sown

Source: Michael 1968a, 1968b

Similarly, it is better to sow strains of pasture species that have a high seedling vigour, especially when surface sowing in dry seasons on soils with good surface structure (Bylong, Angullong) or when surface sowing in wet seasons on hard soils with little surface structure (Turondale) (Table 4).

TABLE 4 - % Establishment (viable seed) of phalaris strains surface-sown on unploughed land



Date sown

Australian commercial



1977 (Dry year)



mean of three

May 2






June 6






July 19






Aug 16





mean of two

June 20





1978 (Wet year)



mean of two

May 12





June 7





July 11





Aug 29




2, 2-DPA + amitrole

June 7






Aug 14





2,2-DPA + amitrole

May 24




Source: Campbell, unpublished data

Companion species are also important: for example, animal production from a Sirocco phalaris pasture south of Orange was higher than from an Australian commercial phalaris pasture because there were more legumes growing with Sirocco than growing with commercial phalaris

(R. Neale, private communication).

4. Threats to Establishment

Consistent observations should be made during establishment to endeavour to control the following:

Rabbits - A few rabbits can greatly reduce the establishment of a surface-sown pasture (Campbell 1968).

Ants - Treating seed with the insecticides bendiocarb or permethrin prior to sowing is essential to obtain good establishment from surface sowing (Campbell 1966, 1982; Campbell and Gilmour 1979) (Table 5).

TABLE 5 - Effect of applying insecticides to the seed coat of phalaris on rate of removal by ants.


Number of seeds taken per day* over a 14 day period







*Maximum removal rate was 150 seeds per day as that was the total number of seeds sown per treatment

It would also be prudent to treat seed sown by direct drilling where the method used leaves seed exposed on the soil surface or in the drill slot.

Mites - Red legged earth mites or blue oat mites can greatly reduce establishment of surface-sown legumes (Table 6).

TABLE 6 - Effect of applying an insecticide for the control of blue oat mites on the establishment of surface-sown pasture species nine weeks after sowing.


Establishment of:

(overall spray)


White clover

Red clover




- insecticide





+ insecticide





Source: Campbell, unpublished data

* meaned for four herbicides treatments

In Table 5, there was a positive relationship between herbicide efficiency in killing weeds and the increase in establishment: for example, the establishment of white clover was increased 22 times on the most effective herbicide treatment compared to 5 times on the least effective. The reason being that there was less weed growth for the mites to attack on the most effective herbicide treatment and thus they concentrated on the sown species. Treatment for mites would be prudent if they were present on direct drilled or conventionally prepared seedbeds.

Treating the seed to reduce mite damage is not effective if the mite population is large because, although the mites die after attacking the establishing seeding, the damage caused by the inexorable advance of mites often kills the seedling. Thus overall spraying of the paddock is essential, and this should be done before serious damage can occur. Insecticides can be combined with herbicides for the control of mites without reducing the efficiency of either chemical.

Slugs can be a problem on all seedbeds if the season is wet and there is plenty of protection (dead litter, covered drill slot). Look for slime trails if you find legume seedlings suddenly missing.

Pasture cockchafers and other insect pests should be treated as soon as their presence is detected.

Nodulation - It is prudent to inoculate legumes with the appropriate rhizobia where necessary.

Frost lift usually occurs in wet years on hills facing south with bare soil. If establishing seedlings are killed by frost lift, aerial sowing just as the frost life period finishes (mid August) will be successful. If frost lift is suspected sow the total amount of seed in two lots, one half at the optimum time and the other after the frost lift has ceased.

5. Management

It is essential to control competing weed growth during the early establishment phase. Heavy grazing can be useful if the sown species are sufficiently well anchored to the soil. As establishing surface-sown phalaris seedlings are very loosely anchored to the soil surface it is better to spell or use herbicides.

Allowing sown species to seed in the year of sowing improves plant density of sub clover in the following year and allows phalaris to go dormant and thus survive its first summer better than if grazed and non-dormant.

In the following years crash grazing or selective herbicides should be used to control dense weed infestations until the perennial grasses or legumes have become dominant.

Once established, it is important not to graze the new strains of phalaris hard in the early seeding/flowering stage as this can reduce the number of buds formed for growth in the following year. Don’t graze new pastures in dry periods as the sown species are generally the only green feed and thus suffer accordingly.

Patience is required in the developing phase because it may take phalaris ten years to become dominant on lower fertility soils or where it has been surface sown.

To enable lucerne to persist, rotational grazing is essential. A three paddock system with 20 days on and 40 days off in the warmer months and 30 days on and 40 days off in the cooler months has proved successful (McKinney 1974). Lucerne survives harsh grazing for short periods provided it is given a one month spell between grazings.

In drier climates or years, consideration should be given to sowing lucerne and phalaris in separate paddocks because a dense stand of lucerne can kill phalaris (Dann 1962; Read et al. 1972). An alternative is to sow a low seed rate of lucerne with phalaris.

Although lucerne poses management problems it has high value as a pasture species. For example, (Reed et al. 1972) found that live- weight gains of young sheep were 45% higher and wool production 10% higher on lucerne pastures at Canberra than on phalaris pastures. Similarly, higher liveweight gains from cattle were achieved on lucerne than on phalaris (Morley et al. 1978; Anon. 1978).

6. Economics

Improved pasture establishment has long been recognised as being the most economic means of permanently improving livestock production and farm incomes. Some 25 years ago, Gruen (1959) concluded that the long run return to on-farm investment in pasture improvement in New South Wales was considerably greater than that of any other method of raising farm income - including the purchase of additional land. Because these conclusions remain valid, it is worth restating the two components of Gruen’s underlying economic question, i.e.,

(i) how profitable is such investment likely to be? and

(ii) what is the best pasture establishment programme that can be adapted to the producer’s own resources and circumstances?

1. How profitable?

The profitability of pasture establishment is the difference between the long run costs and returns from the investment. The costs are those of establishment and maintenance (including seed, fertilizer, herbicide, fuels, machinery and extra stock), capital costs (including fences, water and buildings) and interest on borrowed funds. The returns are the increased value of livestock production and the capitalised value of land and improvements.

Risk is introduced because it usually takes several years before new pastures mature to full stocking potential. Many years ago, Pearse (1963) demonstrated that it took three to eight years for the returns from pasture establishment to exceed the costs, and noted that this would be cold comfort to the producer requiring a quick return to alleviate cost-price pressures. Thus the decision to invest in pasture establishment must give due consideration to the associated risks and the producer’s attitudes towards them. Whilst improved pastures will most likely lead to permanent increases in farm income, the overall costs, the prospect of years of debt, and the risk of drought and rising interest rates have certainly been important deterrents to producers.

To demonstrate the resource requirements and the capital investment nature of the pasture improvement decision, we attach a hypothetical 10 year budget for aerial pasture establishment of 100 ha of moderate rainfall and soil fertility country on the tablelands (Appendix 1).

Current input costs are used and returns are assessed in terms of the increased wool production from Merino wethers. We assume that it takes four years for the pasture (based on phalaris and legumes) to reach its full stocking potential of 10 dry sheep equivalents per ha. We take account of risk over the 10 years by converting the projected net returns (total returns - total costs) back to present day values using a discount rate of 18%. This discount rate can be taken to represent either the cost of borrowed funds, the opportunity cost of using private funds, or a measure of the producer’s perceived riskiness of the pasture improvement investment.

The budget demonstrates that pasture establishment programmes are costly but become self-financing in relatively short periods. In this example, the programme pays for itself in five years with the present day value of the projected net returns (discounted at 18%) estimated to be $25116 or approximately $25/ha.

These profitability estimates are used for illustrative purposes only and will vary according to individual circumstances. We have considered the aerial pasture improvement of relatively difficult country.

In areas where rainfall and soil fertility favour rapid pasture growth, net returns increase, take less time to accrue, and the investment is generally less risky (Vere and Campbell 1981). Alternatively, low rainfall and soil fertility may render pasture establishment uneconomic because of low stocking potential and higher risks.

The method of pasture establishment can also affect investment returns. In general, the costs and associated risks are lower under prepared seedbed establishment than aerial sowing. However, the producer may not always have the choice, especially in non-arable country. Other areas in which establishment costs might be reduced include breeding replacement stock on the property, the use of low-cost herbicide techniques (e.g. spray-graze) for weed control instead of cultivation; growing seed of new pasture varieties on the property; more efficient use of fertilizer; and better management for higher production.

2. What programme?

The pasture establishment options available to the producer are largely determined by property characteristics and individual resource levels and attitudes. The method of establishment depends on the nature of the country, rainfall, soil fertility and relative costs. Finance, labour and machinery availability, personal risk preference and attitude to borrowing will set a limit on the area established in a given period, or in fact, determine if there is to be any pasture improvement at all.

Most producers are forced to operate within pre-determined limits, particularly where finance is concerned and the pasture programme being considered must be designed accordingly. Similarly, it is desirable that a programme be sufficiently flexible to allow the producer to vary his inputs (e.g. fertilizer and stock) in accordance with variations in seasonal cash flows.

Because technical and economic recommendations for improved pasture establishment are based on a number of assumptions and qualifications, they may not be appropriate in each individual situation. Accordingly, the producer should temper these recommendations according to his own circumstances, resources and attitudes to ensure that the proposed programme is realistic and can be accommodated within these constraints. Given careful planning and management, we are confident that on-farm investment in pasture establishment will prove to be most profitable.

Appendix 1

Budget Assumptions

Costs: ($/ha)


aerial spraying


aerial sowing








stock purchases


stock running costs


wool price


wool cut

5 kg/head

interest on borrowings


Stocking rate (d.s.e./ha)

year 1

- 2.5

year 2

- 5.0

year 3

- 7.5

year 4

- 10.0


(100 ha)

(moderate rainfall and soil fertility)














aerial spray



aerial sow






seed & treatment














allowance for failure*




stock purchases











stock costs











Total Costs














Wool sales











cull stock








Total Returns











Net Returns


















Cumulative Returns











* Equivalent to 25% of the first years pasture establishment costs.


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