Charles Sturt University
Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation


This page provides access to educational programs.

  • Educational Tools
  • Pasture Decision Support Tool

Establishing pastures – the trade-off between crop and livestock

A recent survey by the EverCrop™ project indicates that 83% of farmers within the mixed farming zone of southern NSW, regularly under-sow their pastures. In other words they use a cover crop. This practice goes against traditional research and extension advice which recommends pastures to be sown without a cover crop (straight sown), because under-sown pasture is at greater risk of poor establishment and less productive over the pasture phase.  However, most previous research focused primarily on pasture density and biomass production.  It did not quantify the financial implications of the cover crop or the potential effect on livestock productivity.

Image - Cover cropping support toolThe Decision Support Tool operates under the premise that a pasture is to be sown in a particular paddock the next year. The user is able to consider the costs and income from grain and livestock production during the pasture phase.

The underlying calculation for the Decision Support Tool is the net income from under-sowing (US) pasture minus the net income from straight-sowing (SS) pasture for the length of the pasture phase:

Net income = (Crop income + US livestock income - US variable cost) - (SS livestock income – SS variable cost)

An important component of the model is the capacity for the user to change a range of inputs to match their enterprise. The inputs in the Decision Support Tool include expected grain price, grain yield, stocking rate and livestock gross margin ($/DSE), establishment costs, the length of the pasture phase and relative effect that under-sowing has on pasture production (Figure 1).

To view details about the tool, please here [PDF].

To access the Cover cropping decision support tool, please go to:

Further Information:

Mr Geoff Casburn
Development Officer - Sheep
NSW Department of Primary Industries
Ph: (02) 6938 1630