Inspection of Australia and New Zealand Grassland Industry



Both Australia and New Zealand are big livestock producing counties. As early as 1980s, China had already established sound relationship with New Zealand on grassland bases construction in South China. Even today, we still witness sustained exchange and cooperation between the two sides on breed improvement, no-tillage practice, artificial grassland management and utilization. Australia boasts the world's largest grassland acreage (358m ha). In recent years, Australia has exported increasing amount of oaten hay to China. From January to October in 2015, the amount reached to 125 thousand tons, an increase of 28. 9%. Under the backdrop of close relation between China and Australia and in response to the urgent need of China's grassland industry for advanced operation experience, China Grassland Association, under the leadership of President Lu, led a group of 28 people to Australia and New Zealand. The delegation visited the artificial grassland operation, forage seed breeding and oaten hay processing in the two countries. The 14-day visit provides the team member with an in-depth knowledge of the forage industry in the two countries, good examples to follow and sound business opportunities.

I. Artificial Grassland Nurturing and Operation in New Zealand
1. Ample forage breeds, and regional seed breeding and processing
There are about 12m ha of artificial grassland in New Zealand. New Zealand boasts of rich forage breed resources, such as clover, orchard grass, Bromus catharticus, awnless brome, chicory, and narrow leaf plantain. The flagship seed enterprise in New Zealand is PGG Wrightson. The company was founded in 1841 and has a staff of 2500. In 2014, PGG's turnover is 1.2 billion US dollar. Its main business is the so-called one-stop comprehensive agriculture services platform (seed marketing, livestock reproduction and marketing, agriculture material sales, consultancy, training, agent, finance and petty loan and insurance) and seed research and sales. 
PGG is the largest seed provider in south hemisphere, whose seed loyalty number and market share is the first in south hemisphere. It takes up 60% of market share of New Zealand, 40% of Australia, 65% of Uruguay. PGG also has offices in China, New Zealand, Australia, Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil. At present, PGG's seed is exported to more than 50 countries and its production bases are distributed across the continents. The major seed varieties of PGG are grasses, brassica, legumes, herbs, maize, vegetable and lawn. Besides, PGG pays great attention to new variety breeding and utilization. The narrow leaf plantain was bred for forage breed 20 years ago, with crude protein reaching 18%. The plantain is grazing tolerance, which can be cut 8 times for silage making, and 14 cuts for grazing. The seed can be self-reproduced by dropping to the ground automatically. The longevity of the plantain is about 4 to 5 years.
In response to different climate, PGG pays attention to the reproduction and propagation of suitable and adaptable seeds. In New Zealand, PGG focuses on legume such as clover, while in Australia, on alfalfa instead. The new variety bred by PGG will be reproduced by nearby farmers, who will then get technology from PGG for quality control. PGG will buy the seed back then.

2. Mix-sowing of legume and grass in artificial grassland, grazing and sustainable utilization
New Zealand has a sound artificial grassland management and utilization system. Grazing is the popular practice while hay making accounts for a small amount excerpt for peak season. The remaining forage will be made into silage. The artificial grassland is mix-sowed with legume and grass: white clover + orchard grass, white clover + rye grass, white clover + tall fescue. White clover accounts for 20% to 30% in the combination. In wet season, the first two patterns are common while the third one is popular in dry season.
The artificial grassland is divided into paddocks for rotational grazing. Permanent fencing is used to divide the pasture into fixed lots, while temporary electric wired fencing is used to divide the lot into smaller units. The number of livestock is decided by the amount of forage. 25 animals will need 4.5 mu of grazing area. The animals will be relocated to other paddock 2 or 4 days and come back to the first paddock in 40 days. The grazing capacity is 10-12 sheep per hectare.
To be noted, the artificial grassland in New Zealand attaches great importance to management and sustainable utilization. Every two year, soil will be tested and fertilized to improve the soil quality and ensure the sustainable utilization. Normally, the land will be deep tilled and reestablished every 10 years.  

II. Grassland Agriculture System and Oaten Hay Production in Australia
1. Annual legume and crop rotation
30% of land in South Australia is used to plant annual legumes. The annual legume is adaptable. It is sowed in autumn to prevent the dry and hot season in summer. The alfalfa production in South Australia reaches to 250-300kg/mu. There are four ways of crop rotation in Australia for annual legumes.
1) The first is ley type (ley, L): 1 year grassland + 1-3 year crop. The legume can be used as fertilizer. Since the annual legume is self-reproduced, it is recommended to kill the forage by herbicide.
2) The second is phase type (Phase, Ph), 3-6 year grassland + 3-6 year crop. Annual legume will be sowed in the first year and let it reproduce without using herbicide. Crop will be planted in 3-6 years.
3) The third is permanent type (Permanent, PP). Annual legume will be mix-sowed with grass to establish permanent grassland.
4) The fourth is fodder type (Fodder, F). Annual legume will be used to produce silage and hay.
For the above system, Sub-clover adopts Ph, PP and L types, annual alfalfa L type, Persian clover F, Ph and PP types, Balansa clover PP and F types. The annual legume enjoys high crude protein and digestibility. It can use the rhizobium to fix nitrogen for the next growing crops. In the agriculture production system, the rotation of annual legume is helpful for weed control and economic return.

2. Oat breeds for different regions and extension of new breeds
Australia is world??s fourth oat producers. The main oat producing area in Australia is Melbourne, Adelaide, and West Australia. SARDI is the main oat producing institution in South Australia, who pays great attention to the comprehensive characters in its oat breeding. The breeding target for SARDI includes some agricultural characters (yield, anti-shattering, anti-lodging, height, maturity, early vigor) and disease resistance (rust, bacterial blight, nematode, etc.). Cross-breeding is the common practice. The breeding period is normally five years and trial lasts 3 to 5 years. 3 places will be used for the testing.
The variety that SARDI oats breeding center recommends for rainfall of 200-500mm is: Brusher, WA302-9 and Wallaroo. The yield will be 3 tons per hectare. For precipitation at 500 mm, Forestar, Tungoo, Tammar, Mulgara should be used. The yield will be 10 tons per hectare.
The seed production takes up 3 stages. The first is pre-basic (breeder seed). The second is basic seed (foundation seed). The third is certificated seed for commercial use. The breeder seed is produced by breeder itself, while foundation seed is produced by franchised farmers and certificated seed by companies.

3. Quality control in oaten hay production and processing
Johnson??s was founded in 1923. It started to export oaten hay in 1988 and started to export oaten hay to China in 2009. Johnson??s produced 200 thousand tons of hay every year. The company has a well-established processing system.
1) Sign contract with farmers for forage source. 90% of forage processed by Johnson??s is from contracted farmers. The oat variety is mainly produced by SARDI. The oat is sowed in May in autumn, and falls to dormancy in June in winter. The early bloom starts in September and harvest 2 weeks after the flowering. The growing period is about 160 to 180 days.
2) Management of farm information. Traceability can be sustained by recording the contracted farms information and products quality through a special software.
3) Harvesting and Sampling. The bale from contracted farm will be sampled before entering the double pressing machine. Each sample will have a special tag and be kept at the sampling room.
4) Near Infrared analysis. NI will be used after the double press by testing the moisture, fiber and crude protein.
5) Double pressing. The double pressing facility costs about 200 AU dollars. The specification for a bale is 500kg/bale.
6) X ray. X ray is used to test the metal, stone and other impurities.
7) Grading standard. For oaten hay with moisture below 14%, NDF and WSC are the main index to grade the hay.

Chart 1: Oaten Hay Grades of JT JOHNSON










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The 14-day inspection gives us a comprehensive view of the seed breeding, grassland operation, and hay processing in developed countries. China??s agriculture is in the key period of development and transformation, with both opportunities and challenges. How to feel out the rules and wield the technologies calls for the grass people to combine the experience with practice in a bid to boost a comprehensive development in both grassland and animal husbandry industry.


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Record ID:ICP 05023006