Growing profit from the ground up

Pasture Improvement Initiative

Enrich forage shrubs

Funded by the former Future Farm Industries Co-operative Research Centre (FFI CRC) the Enrich project investigated the best ways to incorporate forage shrubs into agricultural landscapes, particularly in the medium to low rainfall zones.

Enrich employed the following approaches to make improvements in shrub-based systems:

  • Using a greater range of shrub species
  • Using complementary plant species (including herbaceous species with shrubs)
  • Manipulating learnt behaviour and training animals to improve shrub utilisation
  • Capitalising on of plants to provide nutrients and beneficial secondary compounds for grazing livestock, as profitable and sustainable components of mixed enterprise farms

The Enrich project was the first large-scale systematic investigation of Australian shrubs with more than 100 species evaluated for their potential to contribute to agricultural systems.

Data was collected on plant attributes such as edible biomass over time, re-growth after grazing, animal preferences (palatability), nutritive value (protein, fibre, minerals), effects on rumen fermentation (gas production to indicate digestibility), rumen fermentation end products including methane, ammonia, volatile fatty acid composition and anthelmintic properties. There were 10 forage shrub species found to be most suitable for low-rainfall grazing systems

The potential advantages offered by forage shrubs can only be realised when coupled with appropriate grazing management. Enrich research showed that by using these approaches, livestock can gain weight during autumn (when green feed is scare), by grazing a mixture of shrubs and companion pasture, without the cost and labour requirements of supplementary feeding.

As a result of the project, the Enrich team produced a guide to perennial forage shrubs — Perennial forage shrubs providing profitable and sustainable grazing: key practical findings from the Enrich project —  which summarised the early findings of the research. A companion booklet: Perennial forage shrubs — principles to practice for Australian farms provides further details on specific shrub species and how to establish shrub plantings. A video about Enrich is available on YouTube.

More information about the Enrich project is available on the FFI CRC website.

Case studies from the Enrich project are available under the Case studies tab on this website.