Good opportunity for crop grazing, says consultant

Author: | Date: 23 May 2016

A flock of sheep grazing in a paddock.

Research has shown that grain crops that are grazed by sheep should be grazed hard and only for a short period of time.

There is an ideal opportunity this year for Western Australian grain growers to successfully graze early sown grain crops with sheep, according to a local consultant.

Steve Curtin, of agricultural consultancy ConsultAg, has in the past helped coordinate crop grazing trials instigated by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Regional Cropping Solutions Network (RCSN) initiative.

He said many long-season crop varieties had been sown early this year, were growing well and were good candidates for crop grazing.

“The early season will allow for good recovery from grazing, resulting in minimal yield loss,” Mr Curtin said.

“The window of opportunity for grazing canola crops this year has already passed for most growers but there will be many cereal crops at or approaching the right stage of development.

“Grazing crops will allow growers to give pastures a spell and enable them to control grass and broadleaf weeds, without compromising sheep feed.

“It will also delay crop flowering, reducing frost risks associated with early sowing.

“WA trials in recent years have shown that if crop grazing is carried out within recommended guidelines, the maximum yield penalty incurred is eight per cent, although any yield loss is usually negligible.”

Mr Curtin said his main message to growers was not to put sheep on crops too late, not to leave them there too long, and to only graze long-season varieties.

“The key to success is early crops, early grazing and sheep early out,” he said.

“Local trial results show that cereals should be grazed at the three to four-leaf stage (GS13-14 or earlier) and are best grazed hard and only for a short period of time - up to two weeks.”

Mr Curtin said a Kwinana East RCSN-supported trial at Merredin in 2015 confirmed a rule-of-thumb from his previous research that for every one day of grazing, the flowering window was pushed back by half a day.

In his previous research, all plots were frosted several times in spring and plots which were grazed produced higher yields than those which were ungrazed.

“This ranged from $46 to $92/ha in additional yield, not including the value of the grazed crop for sheep feed,” he said.

Mr Curtin said that if growers had seeded wheat early, they could predict the flowering date for the variety using the online diagnostic tool Flower Power, available on the DAFWA website.

“If the flowering date is predicted to fall in the main frost window, growers may opt to graze the crop to push the flowering date backward,” he said.

More information about crop grazing is available in the GRDC Wheat and Canola GrowNotes or in the GRDC Hot Topic Grazing dual purpose crops in Western Australia.

Contact Details

For Interviews

Steve Curtin, ConsultAg
08 9865 1616


Natalie Lee, Cox Inall Communications
08 9864 2034, 0427 189 827

GRDC Project Code DAW00218, DAW00229, CSP00178, DAW00249, DAW00253, SYN00008

Region West

GRDC Project code: DAW00218, DAW00229, CSP00178, DAW00249, DAW00253, SYN00008