Containment feeding to boost business performance and resilience
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Containment feeding to boost business performance and resilience
Lead organisation: University of Adelaide
Hub members and partners involved: Talking Livestock, Livestock SA
Project Category: Hub Projects
Project summary: 

The inclusion of containment feeding in livestock enterprises can lead to improved productivity, improved reproductive performance, enhanced landscape and pasture management, greater drought resilience and increases in profitability. This project aims to boost the adoption of containment feeding practices, through the development of resources and capacity building of advisors to support the design, planning, implementation, and adoption of best practices. The project will involve establishing regional expertise through knowledge sharing and training for advisors. Adoption will be facilitated through small producer learning group sessions with follow-up coaching from advisors where they will be supported in the implementation of best practice sheep containment feeding practices. Thorough resources will underpin process.

Project description: 

Containment feeding of livestock is a proven practice that allows improved protection of soils, waterways and pasture survival during drought and times of feed shortage. Containment feeding can enable strategic feeding of livestock to improve productivity and welfare outcomes, best position paddock feed to recover post-drought, maintain or improve groundcover, and potentially increase annual stocking rates.  However, there are few containment feeding systems integrated into farming businesses in Southern Australia, especially when it is commonly quoted by farmers and advisors as a valuable practice to build drought and business resilience. It is evident there are barriers to adoption that have not been adequately addressed by previous containment or confinement feeding projects (Business case for investment in the adoption of stock containment feeding areas, Riverine Plains 2022).

This project will accelerate the adoption of containment systems on farms by training and assembling a network of containment adoption advisors, connected to farming systems groups working directly with livestock producers. The project will conduct workshops, training courses and provide 1 on 1 advice so farmers are supported in the planning, implementation and operation of containment systems that are appropriate to their farming operation. The project will also be tailored to regions, as well as individual farm businesses, to cater for those at different stages of adoption, for example to support those just starting their containment feeding journey to those who wish to optimise and enhance their containment feeding systems. The newly trained containment feeding adoption advisors will also be supported by coaching from technical specialists (who will be delivering the trainer training) and be part of a containment advisory network in the process.

This project is supported through additional funding from the SA Sheep Industry Fund (SIF) to deliver activities in South Australia.

Key achievements and results: 

Project outcomes have been co-designed with 5 farming systems groups (MFMG, AgKI, UNFS, BIGG and AIREP) who will be engaged within Train the Trainer workshops and other extension activities.

  • A well-informed containment feeding course, delivered to producers, with customised containment design and adoption plans for each enterprise.
  • Newly established or significantly improved containment feeding sites across the project area.
  • A newly developed Ration App to be used by both advisors and producers to simplify ration creation and meeting nutritional requirements.
  • New tools and processes including decision pathways, satellite groundcover monitoring (accessed through the MyFarm Dashboard). These tools will be available to all producers, particularly those trained through the course.
  • A central information repository, with the latest containment information and available to all producers. This can also be freely utilised by other organisations.
  • Newly trained and networked containment adoption advisors across Southern Australia who will provide ongoing (cost recovery) service to farmers after the project is completed. This expertise will sit within or be connected to farming systems groups.

The benefits from this project include protection of soils, vegetation, and riparian zones across the landscape, and the industry benefits by quicker recovery after drought. This relates to both having the livestock available for sale or breeding (rather than having to purchase new stock) and reducing the need for resowing pastures that have failed to persist.

A second industry benefit is the continued use of the facility in non-drought periods. There is growing evidence of farmers using these facilities (because they now have them constructed) to realise other opportunities (finishing lambs with low-cost grain, meeting condition score targets etc). This boosts overall farm and industry profitability.

A third and valuable industry benefit is this project will build on the outcomes from recently completed and highly regarded Producer Demonstration Site project – Increasing Production Using Containment Feeding – run by Talking Livestock (Deb Scammell) through the Barossa Improvement Grazing Group (BIGG). This project also seeks to address the significant and verified adoption gaps identified in the report Business case for investment in the adoption of stock containment feeding areas, a project completed by Riverine Plains in 2022, funding by the Future Drought Fund.

Modelling of representative farming systems to quantify the changes in productivity and sustainability metrics that occur through implementation of containment feeding in mixed farming and livestock systems.