Pasture popularity soars as livestock stays strong

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeCountryman
Pingelly farmer Les Marshall produces up to 200 tonnes of pasture seed a year.
Camera IconPingelly farmer Les Marshall produces up to 200 tonnes of pasture seed a year. Credit: Cally Dupe

Business is booming for pasture seed sellers nationwide as demand for wool and sheep meat rises and farmers redirect cropping cash flow into sheep enterprises.

Les Marshall harvested an average tonnage of subterranean clover seed at his Pingelly-based farm business Dutarning Seeds this year.

All of it has sold, which he said was a clear indication of farmers’ renewed interest in pasture and livestock.

Mr Marshall said the State’s pasture production hit an all-time low “two or three years ago” but things had picked up because of the price of wool and sheep meat.

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“Everyone is getting excited about pastures,” he said.

“Prices are up compared to the past couple of years because the yield is down and there is a lot more interest in good pastures. The better the pasture, the better the sheep, the lamb and the wool. It all goes hand in hand.”

This year’s sales fielded the highest demand from the widest range of clients since 2002, when an outbreak of foot and mouth in England created a global lamb shortage.

“There has been a $45 a head in lamb prices and now we are starting to think about our pastures again — and rightly so,” Mr Marshall said.

“I have even had brokers from Melbourne call me to see if they can get their hands on some for farmers in South Australia.”

Ballencia clover and ryegrass are understood to still be available in WA, while sub clovers including Dalkeith are mostly sold out.

Mr Marshall said the price of Australian wool, which has risen almost consecutively for the past 12 months, was a welcome reward for graziers like himself.

However, he said a shortage of pasture seed was being felt across the country after three years of untimely summer rain affected pasture harvest.

“There is the old true believers that stayed with the wool and then there is the younger generation that decided to go way more cropping and way less sheep,” Mr Marshall said.

“Growers are finding that if they are going to run their sheep, they need to improve their cropping.

GIWA crop report author and York farmer Michael Lamond said farmers had moved to more pasture this year.

“There is a slight substitution of wheat area to pasture, driven by the high prices for wool and sheep meat,” he said.

“When things aren’t too good, wool or meat growers gradually let their pastures run down in quality. “There is an opportunity for farmers to reinvest in their pastures because there is more profitability in sheep.”

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