Developing an ecologically sustainable, profitable & respected pastoral industry

GASCOYNE CATCHMENTS GROUP

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LANDCARE WITH COWS

Boosting reproductive performance and managing landscapes

 

Can we increase the reproductive performance of heifers and simultaneously improve landscape management? This question is being addressed through a new trial at Bullara Station in the upper Gascoyne region of Western Australia, with Tim and Edwina Shallcross.

 

The trial implemented a procedure called ‘Rangelot Flushing’, which arose from the recent Rangelands Self Herding project that developed a raft of procedures to positively influence grazing distribution, livestock performance and vegetation.

 

The term ‘rangelotting’ was coined because the approach draws on principles used in rangeland grazing and in feedlotting. ‘Rangelotting’ involves the concentration of grazing pressure and the use of strategic supplementation to lift production and repair landscapes.

 

Heifers in the trial received crushed lupin grain from mobile lick feeders for 6 weeks prior to joining. Lick feeders can be adjusted to control the amount of grain being fed to optimise the balance between higher animal productivity and cost.

 

Lupins were used as the source of protein, but they are also a readily-available source of energy for the heifers. Lupins provide one of the cheapest sources of protein when expressed as $ per kg of protein, and many studies with sheep have shown lupin supplementation to be very effective in increasing ovulation rate.

 

Tim Shallcross at Bullara Station is keen to see the outcomes. Soon after the trial commenced, Tim said “After just a few weeks, we’re already seeing the heifers making good use of the whole paddock, and we’re getting longer than expected use out of the paddock.  We’ve attached visual signals to the lick feeders, and the heifers are using them well. We’ve moved the feeders three times so far, and next we will be targeting the less utilised areas of the paddock. With the mobile feeders it’s a quick job.”

 

“Low calving rates of heifers and first-calvers are acknowledged as a major constraint to profitability of pastoral enterprises”, said Dean Revell, of Revell Science who is assisting with the project.

 

“We are aiming to improve heifer fertility and calving rates via nutritional ‘flushing’, ‘bull effect’ and behavioural signals. Nutritional flushing is achieved by boosting protein intake for a short period of time to increase ovulation. We are combining this targeted supplementation with fenceline contact with bulls and clever placement of attractants to ensure the animal impact has a positive effect on the soils and vegetation.

During this focussed management window, there is an opportunity to achieve beneficial NRM outcomes as well.

 

“Land management or land regeneration can be achieved by the precise placement of the heifers using Rangelands Self Herding practices,” said Bruce Maynard, of Stress-Free Stockmanship.

 

“This allows specific areas to be intensively managed with animal impact to provide the desired level of disturbance and manure fertilisation to initiate a positive change in ecological state.”

 

Rangelot Flushing, in addition to increased joining percentage and landscape repair, is designed to allow earlier identification of poor performers, speedier genetic and epigenetic improvement, and establishment of behavioural responses that are set strongly for life, allowing for effective Rangelands Self Herding strategies at later times.

 

The project receives funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, and additional support through Rangelands NRM and Universal Initiatives.

 

For more information contact:

Dean Revell | dean@revellscience.com.au | 0408 904 948

Bruce Maynard | brucemaynard@bigpond.com | 0428 890 110

Tim Shallcross | bullara@activ8.net.au | 08 9942 5938