A fresh approach to fencing has shown producers in what was a
predominantly cropping area of the Victorian Mallee how to make more money from
For the past two years the Nullawil Best Wool Best Lamb (BWBL)
group has co-invested with the MLA Producer demonstration site (PDS) program to
investigate ways that sheep could be better incorporated into cropping
Garry Armstrong, Program Manager North West Meat and Wool
branch for the Victorian Department of Primary Industries, (DPI) said sheep
production in the Mallee had been ad-hoc due to a lack of infrastructure and the
challenge of grazing livestock effectively on large open paddocks.
“Basically the group members were croppers who ran a few sheep
when they could because they didn’t have the infrastructure to support a stable
livestock enterprise,” Garry said.
“Yet, when questioned, these producers acknowledged that in
the past 10 years particularly, the reason they’d survived was due to the
cash-flow sheep had generated.”
Garry said finding a way to control graze sheep in the Mallee
was the original impetus for the PDS research, although it had since branched
out to include crop and pasture types for improved nutrition and longer grazing
periods, and animal genetics.
“The first part of the PDS was to look at portable electing
fencing as a tool to more efficiently graze cereal crops,” he
“It has proven to be so successful that virtually all the
farmers that have participated in the group are doing something with electric
fencing and controlled grazing.”
Various forms of electric fencing were successful in the
trials, including permanent three-wire fences through to portable
Garry said it was recommended producers train their sheep to
respect electric fences at weaning time by putting them in a containment area
for two days, with ewes on one side of an electric wire and lambs on the
“When this was done during the trial not one ewe walked
through an electric fence when released,” he said.
A good graze
The PDS found the most efficient way to run sheep in the
Mallee was to plant a purpose grown grazing crop prior to the main cereal
planting, to fill the feed gap before the cereals can be grazed.
Garry said there was only about an eightweek window of
opportunity to graze traditional grain varieties of wheat and barley, without
affecting grain yield and production, in the Mallee.
As a guide, he said, an area of 40–50ha planted to a grazing
crop should comfortably handle a mob of 400 ewes and lambs, although seasonal
conditions would dictate the amount of feed produced.
It was recommended the grazing crop be divided into four equal
sized blocks using electric fencing so each segment could be grazed on a six to
The profitability of this shows up in the Mallee PDS results,
with a Moby barley grazing crop returning a gross income of $1,767/ha when
continuously grazed during the 2010 trial season.
This compares to a gross income of $671 for a crop of
Hindmarsh barley, grazed once before being stripped for grain in the same
“The results really highlight the impact controlled grazing of
a purpose grown crop can have, as at times during the trial these areas were
stocked at up to 45dse,” Garry said.
“It gives farmers the flexibility to take stock off their
cropping country and make a greater return off a smaller area of their
Back to News Headlines