Project Funder: Meat & Livestock Australia
Project Lead Organisation/Researcher: Central West Farming Systems (CWFS), Rajdeep Sandhu/Wendy Gill
Project Duration: December 2020 – June 2024
Project Locations: North Condobolin, Condobolin Agricultural Research & Advisory Station (ARAS) & Gunning Gap
MLA PDS Project Code: L.PDS.2102
To increase knowledge and adoption of alternative annual forage legume options available to meat producers in the low rainfall zone (LRZ) of central west NSW, which have not been traditionally used, by showing they can be easily integrated into existing mixed farming operations to assist in meat production and adaptation to climate variability.
Traditional annual pasture legumes’ (subterranean clovers and medics) capacity to supply adequate nitrogen to drive pasture production and provide high quality feed to support high livestock growth rates in the LRZ of central west NSW (CW NSW) has significantly deteriorated. Reliance on traditional annual legumes and even the perennial lucerne for seasonal forage and animal production is no longer possible with climate variability, increasing acidity, changing fertility levels and more frequent dry periods and drought depleting seedbanks and persistence.
There are very few ‘continuous croppers’ remaining in the CW NSW, with most farmers now realising stock provide a very valuable risk management tool and an alternative source of income. The recent drought of 2018-19 has decimated stock numbers in the district, with typical stock numbers currently only 20–40% of the average. Rebuilding the flocks and herds will be the target of most over the next 3–5 years, with greater feedbase options critical to that expansion.
Very little demonstration of new feedbase options has occurred throughout the CWFS region of recent years, with most efforts being devoted to annual cropping options, mainly dual-purpose cereals and canola. Core producers will work with researchers and experience first-hand how alternative forage legumes can contribute to their mixed farming businesses, help reduce the impacts of climate variability, reduce risk in pasture rejuvenation, and supply flexible options for the production of forage and meat. We will focus on annual legumes that extend sowing and growing season options and can be used as an ‘on-demand’ basis in the pasture-crop rotation. There is significant capacity for these legumes in the central west of NSW, but they are yet to be widely adopted.