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Comparison of stocking methods for beef production in northern Australia: seasonal diet quality and composition

Hall, Trevor J. and McIvor, John G. and Jones, Paul and Smith, David R. and Mayer, David G. (2016) Comparison of stocking methods for beef production in northern Australia: seasonal diet quality and composition. The Rangeland Journal, 38 (6). pp. 553-567.

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Article Link(s): http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/RJ15122

Publisher URL: http://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/RJ15122

Abstract

Managing and measuring the grazing and nutrition of cattle are required to improve the productivity and profitability of beef businesses in northern Australia. The quality and composition of the diet selected by cattle grazing in three stocking methods (continuous, extensive rotation and intensive (cell) rotation) on nine commercial properties in Queensland were estimated using near infrared reflectance spectroscopy analyses of fresh faeces; 585 faecal samples were analysed between 2005 and 2009. Sites were in two regions (north and south Queensland) and on two vegetation communities, namely brigalow (Acacia harpophylla F. Muell. ex Benth.) on clay soils and eucalypts on light-textured soil types. Pastures were dominated by perennial sown exotic grass species, predominantly Cenchrus ciliaris L. (buffel grass) at five sites and Urochloa mosambicensis (Hack.) (Sabi grass) at one site, and by native perennial tussock grasses at three sites. Seasonal profiles of dietary crude protein, dry matter digestibility, faecal nitrogen concentration, proportion of non-grass, ratio of crude protein to digestibility and an estimate of liveweight gain are presented for each stocking method. Overall, dietary crude protein, digestibility, faecal nitrogen, the crude protein : digestibility ratio and liveweight gain were significantly higher for animals grazed continuously, with short rest periods, than for animals in extensive or intensive rotations. There was a significant interaction between stocking method and pasture growing conditions, measured as a simulated growth index, for dietary crude protein and faecal nitrogen. There was no difference between stocking methods during periods when the index was <0.2, indicating no pasture growth, but during periods of active growth (index >0.5), crude protein and faecal nitrogen were higher with continuous grazing than in the extensive and intensive rotations. For cattle producers considering alternative stocking methods, the results suggest they can obtain similar ecological responses under any of the three methods and diet quality will be higher during the pasture growing period in continuously grazed pastures.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Animal Science
Keywords:cell grazing, continuous grazing, dietary crude protein, digestibility, faecal near infrared reflectance spectroscopy, liveweight gain, rotational grazing.
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agricultural economics
Animal culture > Cattle
Animal culture > Rangelands. Range management. Grazing
Animal culture > Feeds and feeding. Animal nutrition
Deposited On:18 Jan 2017 01:38
Last Modified:18 Jan 2017 01:38

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