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Young J.M.,Farming Systems Analysis Service | Thompson A.N.,Australian Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries | Thompson A.N.,Murdoch University | Curnow M.,44 Albany Highway | Oldham C.M.,44 Albany Highway
Animal Production Science | Year: 2011

Profitability of sheep production systems in southern Australia is optimised at a stocking rate that provides adequate nutrition for breeding ewes and enables efficient utilisation of grown pasture and supplements. In this paper we used bio-economic modelling to develop optimum liveweight1 profiles for spring-lambing Merino ewes in different environments. The modelling included the impacts of the ewe liveweight profile on the production of the ewe and the survival and lifetime wool production of her progeny. Fifteen ewe liveweight profiles were analysed for each region to determine the profitability of varying ewe liveweight at joining, varying rate of loss of liveweight after joining and the rate of gain in liveweight from the minimum to lambing. The analyses support the hypotheses that whole-farm profitability is sensitive to the liveweight profile of Merino ewe flocks and that there is a liveweight profile that maximises whole-farm profit. The variation between the most and least profitable ewe liveweight profile was $690002 per farm ($14.30/ewe) for south-west Victoria, $51000 per farm ($8.70/ewe) for Great Southern Western Australia and $33300 per farm ($9.70/ewe) for southern New South Wales. The changes in profit were due to differences in costs of feeding to achieve the ewe liveweight profile and its influence on the production of both the ewes and their progeny. Failure to include the impacts of liveweight profile on progeny survival and lifetime wool production incorrectly identifies the optimum ewe liveweight profile and provided inaccurate estimates of profitability. The optimum liveweight profiles for ewes lambing in spring were similar for all three regions and insensitive to changing commodity prices, pasture productivity and management. The optimum profile was to join ewes at ∼90% of the standard reference weight of the genotype, lose a small amount of weight after joining and regain weight in late pregnancy to return to the joining weight by lambing. Regaining the liveweight lost in early pregnancy by lambing is the most important target to achieve. The cost per farm of missing this liveweight target by 1 kg was $13000 ($2.60/ewe) for south-west Victoria, $8900 ($1.45/ewe) for Great Southern Western Australia and $5500 ($1.65/ewe) for southern New South Wales. By contrast, the cost per farm of missing the joining target by 1 kg was $5500 for south-west Victoria and less than $2000 across the other two regions. Whole-farm profit increased with increasing stocking rate up to an optimum and regardless of stocking rate there is an additional opportunity to increase whole-farm profit by up to 15% by managing ewes to achieve the optimum liveweight profile. This indicates that the optimum liveweight profile should be achieved by increasing the level of grain feeding and altering the timing of utilising the farm feed resources rather than manipulating stocking rate. © CSIRO 2011.

Curnow M.,44 Albany Highway | Oldham C.M.,44 Albany Highway | Behrendt R.,Australian Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries | Gordon D.J.,Australian Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries | And 6 more authors.
Animal Production Science | Year: 2011

Low rates of adoption of innovations in sheep management have been blamed on the poor targeting of messages, low relative advantage of the innovation, a focus on awareness-raising activities rather than adoption activities, poor 'packaging' of information and few effective tools to aid decision making. Lifetimewool, a national project that developed management guidelines for Merino ewes specific to regions and different times of lambing, used a 'review and improve' process to identify areas of interest, level of knowledge and the skills required by different sectors of the audience to adopt the new recommendations for ewe management. To match these needs and to effectively communicate information from Lifetimewool, a combination of simple and complex tools were produced which were practical, effective, regionally specific and credible. All of the products were designed as a 'family' in terms of design and content, allowing a recognition by the producer that they complemented each other and led producers through logical steps for making decisions on managing and feeding ewes. The average awareness of all tools by consultants and extensionists was almost 90% and average usage rates were above 50%. However, the usage rates varied dramatically between tools and users, for example, 46% of consultants used the feed budget tables compared with 76% of extensionists for a similar awareness. Of 1353 producers surveyed more than 55% were aware of the Lifetimewool tools and average usage within this group was 19% and related to the length of time the tool had been available. An estimated 14000 producers were aware of tools produced by Lifetimewool. The uptake and use of these tools by the target audiences support our hypothesis that tools of differing complexities are required to cater for individual needs. © CSIRO 2011.

Young J.M.,Farming Systems Analysis Service | Trompf J.,J.T. Agri Source | Thompson A.N.,Baron Hay Court | Thompson A.N.,Murdoch University | Thompson A.N.,University of New England of Australia
Animal Production Science | Year: 2014

Improving the reproductive performance of sheep is a national research priority, but identifying which components of the reproductive process should be the highest priority for further research is complex. The analysis reported in this paper tested the hypothesis that research areas can be prioritised using knowledge of potential gains and bio-economic modelling of critical control points. The analysis was carried out in two parts and the control points included increasing conception, increasing survival of single- or twin-born lambs, increasing survival of ewes at lambing, increasing weaner survival and increasing early reproductive success. For each control point, four productivity levels were examined and the average change in profit per unit of change in the control point per animal was calculated for three flock types. The second component quantified the potential industry gain from the change in profit per unit in each control point, the potential for change (number of units) and the potential adoption (number of ewes or weaners). On the basis of the assumptions used, increasing survival of twin-born lambs was the area with the highest pay-off and had an estimated value of AU$515 million. The value of increasing twin-lamb survival compared with single-lamb survival was affected by the proportion of single- and twin-bearing ewes in the flock. In a flock based on maternal ewes, there are relatively more twin-bearing ewes, so increasing twin survival was a higher priority than for flocks based on Merino ewes in which the proportion of twins was lower. The analysis suggested that the second most important area for future research was improving reproduction from ewe lambs with a pay-off of AU$332 million, followed by improving survival of ewes AU$303 million, improving survival of single born lambs AU$285 million, improving the number of lambs conceived AU$235 million, improving reproduction from 2-year-old ewes AU$221 million and, finally, improving weaner survival AU$52 million. The priorities determined using this method were robust and varying the assumptions of the bio-economic analysis had little impact on the priorities. There was no change in the overall ranking of the critical control points from either increasing the meat or wool price by 20% or altering the flock structure of the Merino flock. Therefore, we can be confident that the priorities determined in the present analysis with current prices and production systems will be valid in to the future. © CSIRO 2014.

Young J.M.,Farming Systems Analysis Service | Behrendt R.,Jobs | Curnow M.,44 Albany Highway | Oldham C.M.,44 Albany Highway | And 2 more authors.
Animal Production Science | Year: 2016

The nutritional requirements of twin-bearing ewes are ∼25% greater than those of ewes with single fetuses during late pregnancy and nearly twice those of non-pregnant ewes. Underfeeding ewes, resulting in liveweight loss during late pregnancy, can have adverse effects on the production and survival of both the lamb and the ewe, and improving twin-lamb survival is critical to improving the overall reproductive performance of the National Merino flock. Scanning for pregnancy status and litter size allows for more precise management of the nutrition of the ewe flock according to the different nutritional needs of dry, single- and twin-bearing ewes. In the present paper, we tested the hypothesis that it is profitable to identify pregnancy status and litter size, and the optimum nutrition profiles are different for dry, single- and twin-bearing ewes. We tested this by examining a range of nutrition strategies for flocks where only the dry ewes were identified, or for flocks where the single- and twin-bearing ewes were identified. A MIDAS model set up for the Hamilton region in south-western Victoria was used for this analysis as it represents the whole flock and it includes a powerful feed-budgeting module that optimises animal and pasture management across the whole farm. The survival and production of the single- and twin-born progeny was adjusted on the basis of the liveweight profile of the single- and twin-bearing ewes. Our hypothesis was supported and profitability was increased by approximately AU$4630/farm or AU$0.80/ewe, by scanning ewes for pregnancy status and litter size, and the optimum liveweight profiles were different for dry, single- and twin-bearing ewes. The majority of the increase in profit was due to identifying litter size and being able to differentially manage the single- and twin-bearing ewes. When ewes are scanned for pregnancy status and litter size, the most profitable combination of profiles involves all ewes losing 4 kg in early pregnancy and single-bearing ewes regaining the 4 kg to lamb at their standard reference weight, twin-bearing ewes gaining 8 kg to lamb above their standard reference weight and dry ewes losing a further 4 kg to be 8 kg lighter than their standard reference weight at lambing time. © CSIRO 2016.

Finlayson J.,University of Western Australia | Bathgate A.,Farming Systems Analysis Service | Nordblom T.,Charles Sturt University | Theiveyanathan T.,ENSIS | And 4 more authors.
Agricultural Systems | Year: 2010

It has been widely suggested that changing land use from annual to perennial crops reduces land and stream degradation due to salinisation. However, annual crops are financially attractive and increases in perennials can reduce stream flows with adverse effects on stream values. As such, salinity control is likely to involve tradeoffs between public and private costs and benefits. This study quantifies the expected on-farm economic and catchment-level water yield and salinity effects of altering land use among trees, perennial pastures and cereals. The structure of a two stage linear-programming (LP) process is described. The first stage is the MIDAS farm-level model of mixed cropping and sheep enterprises which provides inputs to a second stage catchment-level LP. It was concluded that perennial pastures can be used in conjunction with trees as a stream salinity-management tool in low to intermediate rainfall areas in New South Wales. The results indicate that land-use decisions should be informed by site-specific information if adverse effects on streams are to be avoided. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Young J.M.,Farming Systems Analysis Service | Thompson A.N.,Australian Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries | Thompson A.N.,Western Australian Department of Agriculture and Food | Kennedy A.J.,Australian Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries | Kennedy A.J.,Western Australian Department of Agriculture and Food
Animal Production Science | Year: 2010

Whole-farm decision making is complex as many factors influence the profitability of pasture-based lamb production systems and other influences such as skills and attitudes also affect the behaviours of individual farmers. In this paper we used bioeconomic modelling to identify the relative importance of manipulating components of lamb production systems in south-west Victoria and quantified their likely impacts on whole-farm profitability. Four lamb production systems that varied in relation to the genotype of the ewes and the time of sale of the lambs were examined in the analysis. Two 'systems' were based on first-cross Border Leicester Merino ewes that were mated to a terminal sire and the lambs were either sold as finished slaughter lambs at 45 kg liveweight or as stores at weaning at 30 kg liveweight. The other two 'systems' were based on a self-replacing composite breed (Romney Coopworth base) and the lambs were sold as finished slaughter lambs or stores. Based on the assumptions used the analysis highlighted that the potential economic gain per unit change was high for several factors examined and the relative importance of these critical control points differed between production systems. Matching lamb turn-off (finished or store) to existing ewe genotype improved profitability by more than $100/ha or 50% and optimising pasture utilisation was also important regardless of production system. A 20% increase in pasture utilisation up to the optimum increased whole-farm profit by more than $100/ha. The impacts of improving pasture growth just after the break of season and through early winter on whole-farm profit were even greater. An extra 20 kg of pasture growth per day at this time of the year is potentially worth about $200/ha due to increases in whole-farm stocking rate. Extra pasture growth in early summer also has significant value for later lambing flocks. When farmers have optimised these factors the second-order control points were cost of replacement ewes for the first-cross system, age at first mating and reproduction efficiency in adult ewes. The management and production factors that will provide the greatest return on effort for individual farmers will depend on the potential economic gain per unit change in the target factor, their current management and production levels and the ease with which the management change or increase in production potential can be achieved in the farming system. © 2010 CSIRO.

Young J.,Woodenup Trading Co | Kingwell R.,University of Western Australia | Kingwell R.,Australian Export Grains Innovation Center | Bathgate A.,Farming Systems Analysis Service | Thomson A.,Murdoch University
Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems | Year: 2016

Concerns about the environmental and economic impacts of increasing greenhouse gas emissions, including those from agriculture, have caused many nations to commit to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. Various methodologies are used to measure and report emissions. We outline the range of metrics and discuss the rationale and limitations of their use in greenhouse gas emission reporting, especially for livestock production. We highlight how farm management is affected by the measurement metrics that are applied. On balance more complex reporting measures are more likely to usefully serve farmers, extension agents, and agricultural researchers to achieve beneficial environmental outcomes at least cost to farm businesses and governments. © 2016 Taylor & Francis.

Robertson M.J.,CSIRO | Lawes R.A.,CSIRO | Bathgate A.,Farming Systems Analysis Service | Byrne F.,Farming Systems Analysis Service | And 2 more authors.
Crop and Pasture Science | Year: 2010

Break crops (e.g. pulses, lupins, canola, oats) underpin the continued profitability of cereal (wheat or barley) based cropping sequences. The area sown on farms to break crops varies widely across geographical regions according to climate, soil type mix, enterprise mix (crop v. livestock), and other constraints such as the prevalence of soil-borne disease. Given recent fluctuations in the area of established break crops in Western Australia, there are concerns about their long-term prospects in the farming system. A survey of the area and grain yield of break crops on-farm was combined with whole-farm bio-economic modelling to determine the upper limit to the area of break crops on representative farms in 4 agro-climatic regions. Sensitivity analysis was conducted to ascertain the potential effects of varying commodity prices (sheep and grain), costs of production, and assumptions on the yield of break crops and the boost to the yield of following cereals. The survey revealed that the two dominant break crops, lupins and canola, occupied 8-12% and 8-9%, respectively, of farm area on those farms that grew them in the medium-rainfall zone and this declined to 6-8% and 7-10% in the drier region. Nevertheless, the modelling results show that break crops are an important component of the farming system, even where the area is small, and the response of whole-farm profit to percent of the farm allocated to break crops is relatively flat near the optimum of 23-38%. The modelled area of break crops at maximum profit is higher than that found in farm surveys. The discrepancy could possibly be explained by the lower break crop yields realised by farmers and a reduced boost to cereal yields following break crops than assumed in models. Also, deterministic models do not account for risk, which is an important consideration in the decision to grow break crops. However, the yield difference does not explain the discrepancy entirely and raises questions about farmer motivations for adoption of break crops. The scope for increased area of break crops beyond 23-38% of the farm is limited, even with increases in the yield enhancements in subsequent cereal crops, higher break crop prices, and higher fertiliser costs. Further research is required to better quantify costs and benefits of break crops in Western Australian farming systems. © 2010 CSIRO.

Monjardino M.,CSIRO | Bathgate A.,Farming Systems Analysis Service | Llewellyn R.,CSIRO
Crop and Pasture Science | Year: 2014

Plantings of forage shrubs such as saltbush (Atriplex spp.) in the drier part of the crop-livestock zone of southern Australia have the potential to help fill feed autumn gaps, provide valuable feed during drought periods, and provide year-round groundcover, shelter for livestock and options for management of saline soils. However, the proportion of farms with forage shrub plantings and the extent of those plantings remain relatively low, with the rate of new plantings slowing over the past decade. Development of new forage-shrub options has been occurring with the aim of improving the feed value and adoption of forage shrubs. Using a whole-farm bio-economic optimisation model for a crop-livestock farming system in the low-rainfall Mallee region of southern Australia (Mallee MIDAS - model of an integrated dryland agricultural system), we explored how key attributes of forage-shrub plantings and the associated pasture understorey, such as biomass growth, digestibility and ease of establishment, can make forage shrub plantings economically more attractive to farmers. We found that saltbush types and forage-shrub options with improved feed quality characteristics will offer the opportunity for improved economic returns and increased profitability from larger plantings compared with existing options. Improving feed quality was more important than increasing the growth rates of saltbush plants. Results still indicate only a niche role in farming systems, with profit typically being greatest when using relatively small areas (<10% of farm area) on the less productive soils of the farm. The results suggest that the profitability of forage shrubs will be greatest for those growers with larger areas of marginal cropping soils and greater reliance on livestock than cropping. Furthermore, the results demonstrate that, if cereal prices or yields fall significantly and/or lamb prices rise, the value of a forage shrub planting can increase substantially. The principles revealed have wide application beyond the region, although these need to be adapted on-farm and widely disseminated before potential contribution to Australian agriculture can be realised. © CSIRO 2014.

Byrne F.,University of Western Australia | Robertson M.J.,University of Western Australia | Robertson M.J.,CSIRO | Bathgate A.,Farming Systems Analysis Service | Hoque Z.,University of Western Australia
Agricultural Systems | Year: 2010

Evaluating the potential scale of adoption of a technological innovation or management practice at the farm business scale can help gauge the potential size of an industry for the purposes of prioritising resources for research and development. In this paper we address the question of quantifying the potential area of adoption of a perennial pasture, lucerne (Medicago sativa L.), in dryland mixed farming systems in Australia. Lucerne pastures play a significant role in dryland farming systems in the wheat-sheep zone of southern and western Australia. While there are benefits of integrating lucerne into cropping systems there will inevitably be additional costs, and the scale of adoption of lucerne will depend largely on the increase in farm profit resulting from the introduction of lucerne. Whole-farm economic models of representative farms in the Australian wheat-sheep belt were used to determine the key drivers for the scale of adoption of lucerne.For a particular farming system the optimal area of lucerne which maximises whole-farm profit is found to depend on production, price and cost conditions. Generally, no more than 30% of a farm was allocated to lucerne according to those conditions and location of the farm. For most scenarios examined the response of profit was flat around the optimal area. This implies that lucerne could be grown on areas greater than the optimum, in order to reduce groundwater recharge (and thereby reduce the risk of dryland salinity), without greatly reducing whole-farm profit. The optimal area of lucerne in all regions was limited by the area of suitable soil types and proportion of lucerne in the most profitable lucerne-crop sequences.At all price levels assumed in this study lucerne remained as part of the optimal enterprise mix for all farm types examined. Lucerne productivity was also a major determinant of the optimal area of lucerne. The sensitivity of profit to changes in winter and/or summer production varied between regions and for different livestock enterprises. The differences were driven by the timing of energy demands and supply of feed in individual farming systems.In all regions the optimal area and profitability of lucerne varied with livestock enterprise. The analyses showed that changing from wool production to meat production enabled greater economic benefit to be realised from lucerne. This was consistent across farm types and demonstrated the value of lucerne as a source of high quality feed for finishing prime lambs in summer.The results of this study demonstrate that lucerne is profitable in a range of environments on a significant proportion of the farm area, but that this area is small relative to that required to significantly influence in its own right the environmental issue of salinity. © 2010.

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