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NSW Grassland Society Conference 2015

The recent NSW Grassland Society Conference and days on Beef Genetics and Prograze covered a range of topics which again highlighted some important general rules that are worth recapping.

The importance of pasture nutrition as a driver of animal production systems was covered by several speakers at the Grasslands conference and the simple summary is: understanding where your soil P levels sit in relation to the critical threshold for optimal pasture production is vital in order to make sound decisions around fertiliser use. Soil phosphorous (P) is one of the most important managerial "levers" we have control of. P is a primary driver of both grass and legume production. Nitrogen (N) is another key driver of plant growth but due to legumes usually fulfilling the role of supplying N in a grass/legume pasture we usually do not consider applying it.  Soil P is commonly the first most important nutrient  to focus on, and the one that gives the biggest return to your business in situations where it is below critical threshold levels.

Improved genetic potential in animals will be expressed in animals with adequate nutrition, so offering nutrition that is well matched to livestock requirements and targets is essential to reap the benefits of good breeding.

As stock breeders look for increased growth potential, there is a risk that the mature breeding animals can grow larger than desired. Including mature cow size as part of your assessment of estimated breeding values (EBV's), can help with this. Bigger is not always better, as the larger animals have a higher maintenance level and so may mean a lower stocking rate can be carried. Generally, numbers of offspring are critical to profit, so having to lower stocking rate due to feed demand of larger breeding stock, can offset any gain made by quicker growth rates of offspring.

The cattle breeders who hosted the genetics field day focused selection on calving ease, good early growth (200 days) and holding mature cow weight at current levels. The aim was to avoid calving problems, have fast growing calves suitable for sale into the weaner market (as this is popular on the coast) while retaining a medium sized breeding animal that can handle "tight times" better than a larger animal. Other breeders may focus on different traits, but as breeding choices tend to last a long time it is important to be sure you are heading where you want to go.

Understanding pasture quality and quantity and animal needs allows you to make the best use of your pastures through sound decisions on grazing rotations, stocking rates and supplementary feed needs. Prograze courses cover these areas and can be run in local areas when there is sufficient interest.

John O'Connor 
Senior Land Services Officer Livestock
Mobile 0412 359 084 
Email: or

Amanda Britton 
Senior Land Services Officer - Pastures
Mobile : 0427 102 793