Graziers update aims to make dollars and sense out of pastures

The Barossa Improved Grazing Group (BIGG) and Grasslands Society of Southern Australia (GSSA) have teamed up to bring together a pasture update for graziers in the Barossa region, to be held at the Nuriootpa Sports and Function Centre on August 25.

BIGG chairman Mark Grossman says the MLA sponsored event has an all-star line-up of speakers covering a diverse range of topics from pasture improvement to business management.

“BIGG and GSSA have organised a fantastic agenda to provide producers with the latest insights and research to help improve their productivity and profitability,” he said.

Speakers include West Australian farmers Marcus and Shannon Sounness, who will discuss their experiences in the MLA Challenge.

“For the challenge we spent 12 months using MLA resources to improve our business, while blogging about our progress to share our learnings with other producers,” Marcus said.

“Our most significant technical change was identifying that for us, it is generally more profitable to turn off 35-40kg store lambs. We used to turn off prime Merino lambs, and we struggled to get weights up. By looking at meat per hectare rather than per head, we worked out that we could save as much as $40,000 on our feed costs.”

However the major outcome of the challenge was in the Sounness’ family roles and succession.

“My folks were retiring at the time, so we used the opportunity to look at everyone’s roles in the business. For instance my father is no longer active on the farm, but he is instead performing a consultant role, filling the technical gaps where Shannon and I might not have the experience, such as markets,” Marcus said.

“Shannon’s role in the family has also changed significantly as part of the challenge, from where she used to feel a bit of an outsider, but through communication and changes from the project, now she is an integral team member, and in fact the two of us now own the business and we’ve moved on to look at succession plans for the next generation.”


Other speakers include:

  • Macquarie Franklin principal consultant Basil Doonan speaking on logical business decision-making, focusing on profit drivers in a pasture-based grazing system.
  • National lucerne breeding program leader Alan Humphries on new lucerne varieties and their place in pastures
  • Agrilink consultant Jeff Braun speaking on productivity of cereals and canola for grazing and grain.
  • CSIRO researcher Therese McBeath speaking on phosphorus efficiency in pastures and addressing the question ‘where does all the P go?’
  • Growing Solutions’ Leighton Pearce speaking on using drones to assess and manage pastures, livestock and water supplies.