Improving the feed-base to better balance livestock demands with the variation in feed supply can improve the sustainability and productivity of livestock enterprises. This paper outlines some approaches and tools that can be applied to the assessment of new feed options and/or potential changes to the feed-base in mixed farming systems. Demonstrations of strategic aspects of designing feed systems include: whole-farm feed planning using simple tools, such as the MLA Feed Demand Calculator, that enable iterative changes to the balance between feed supply and demand to be considered simultaneously; assessing production and environmental risks of different feed-base systems using simulation models (e. g. APSIM, GRAZPLAN); and using bio-economic models (e. g. MIDAS) to investigate the impact of a new feed source on whole-farm pro. tability and the optimal balance of other feed sources and livestock production system. Also included is an example of an approach to identifying opportunities and seasonal triggers for a tactical response for utilising an alternate feed source (e. g. grazing a grain crop). The importance of economics and risk as factors for assessing feed-base systems is demonstrated. In particular, the marginal value of extra feed supply is a critical element driving the whole-farm economics of the feed system. Some approaches consider seasonal averages, but the risk of year-to-year and within-year variations in the timing and amount of feed supply should also be assessed. Several tools of varying complexity exist to investigate attributes of the feed-base, but it is important that the correct approach is applied to the particular question in mind. A range of approaches could be applied concurrently to fully explore a range of aspects of the performance of a feed-base system.
|Journal||Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture|
|Issue number||6 & 7|
|Publication status||Published - 2008|