Peter Hall asks farmers how familiar they are with pasture species

Pasture species are a foundation for growth and feed quality.

PASTURE POTENTIAL: Pasture assessment in action as a discussion group looks for promising survivors at a decades-old species trial site. Identifying what’s present can make big differences to management. Picture: Supplied

PASTURE POTENTIAL: Pasture assessment in action as a discussion group looks for promising survivors at a decades-old species trial site. Identifying what’s present can make big differences to management. Picture: Supplied

It’s too easy to not see the limit that the plants themselves can impose on the value of our management decisions. Knowing what’s growing helps makes sense of the growth responses we see, enables us to make best use of the pasture resource as it stands, and plan the actions that can improve it.

However the need for this knowledge can be obscured by the great diversity of things that affect the growth of any pasture. The plants are only one factor in many. The growth we see is also shaped by rainfall, temperature, fertility, grubs, grazing and us, to name but a few. Within this diversity of factors the plants are pivotal. They interact with everything, determining the extent of so many impacts.

It is also rare that something doesn’t eventually grow, again possibly hiding the effect of individual pasture species. Nature fills gaps and uses resources with something, although this something may not be our more desirable species or deliver the best outcomes.

This resilience of plant communities can hide the impact of changing pasture composition. And without better pasture composition to compare against, it may be hard to tell what growth and quality is good and what is not.

Looking within the pasture itself, identifying the different species, observing their individual performance, the power that pasture species composition can deliver may be dramatically illustrated.

Knowing where the plants that grow are located can allow that growth to be optimised with rest and nutrition. It can also help with decisions like choosing to graze pastures free from ryegrass staggers risk, where this is an animal health consideration.

Just as the pasture species are a foundation for growth, understanding the species present in pasture is a foundation for more effective management.

Identifying the differences and seeing what species make up your pastures can help you to make the most of growth and management right now, and of course make sound decisions in terms of the priorities for changing pasture composition in the future.

TIA’s sheep and beef pasture team will be at Agfest encouraging the recognition of the value of pasture composition and the role it plays in productive, resilient livestock systems. Knowing your plants helps feed your livestock.

Information on identifying and understanding our pasture plants can be obtained from DPIPWE’s publications page, at www.dpipwe.tas.gov.au/agriculture/publications-agriculture.

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