A trial unit of 87.8 ha with conventional grass-based pastures and one of 85.1 ha with high legume-content pastures were used to investigate the impact of climate-risk management strategies on production and profitability of dryland sheep farming systems. The target stocking rate of both units was 14 stock units (SU)/ha, which is markedly higher than the regional monitor farm at 8.8 SU/ha. Information on the feed supply and animal feed requirement of the two units for 2008/09 and 2009/10 are presented, along with differences in weather patterns, soils moisture, climate-risk responses used, and stock sales between the two years. Results from the grass-based unit indicated that the flexible livestock policies used and climate-risk management responses imposed were able to increase farm profitability and reduce its variability between years in comparison to the local Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry monitor farm model. However, the same was not true for the high legume-content unit, which encountered a number of problems with high lamb deaths and poor lamb finishing in 2008/09. Soil moisture level in the top 25 cm proved to be a simple, inexpensive and effective indicator for making appropriate farm management decisions in response to changes in the climate.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 71, Invercargill, 96-102, 2011
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