Great Southern Landscapes

Shade Shelter Fodder

Shade Shelter Fodder® is a method of regenerative planting, developed by Greening Australia, that is specifically designed to be profitable for farmers, while at the same time producing environmental benefits.

Photos by Toby Peet and Brains.

How does it work?

The main aim of Shade Shelter Fodder® is to re-establish perennial native plant cover across degraded farmland, integrating ecological restoration with paddock productivity and carbon sequestration.

At Greening Australia, we work with the landholder to create a planting design that fits with their property and production system, adapting the layout and species mix to maximise benefits from cleared or degraded farmland. The revegetation will look different in each case, depending on the soil type and conditions, and each landholder’s priorities.

Revegetation can be designed to provide the following benefits:

  • Shade creation
  • Shelter belts for livestock
  • Perennial forage
  • Reduced grazing pressure
  • Improved nutritional value for livestock
  • Biodiversity values
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Improved profitability
  • Reduced effects of land degradation (such as dryland salinity, waterlogging and soil erosion).

Planting can be undertaken as blocks or belts (linear rows), but it is generally optimal to use a belt design that incorporates about 60% palatable species with high nutritional value and performance under managed grazing. Wide linear rows or belts also allow for easier control of stock and a better mix of pasture with the inter-row species.

Where does it work?

Shade Shelter Fodder® targets currently unproductive areas of farmland stocking sheep or cattle. It is best suited to cleared and/or degraded agricultural lands, or soil types with low crop or pasture productivity. This regenerative method is predominantly used in drier, lower rainfall landscapes (i.e. 300-450 mm annually) supporting wheatbelt farming systems that typically don’t have perennial pastures in their mix.

These drier areas often suffer from a feed gap at the end of the long dry period over summer and autumn, impacting stocking rates and productivity. Shade Shelter Fodder aims to fill the autumn feed gap by establishing native shrubby systems and perennial pastures based on local native species.

In lower rainfall areas, farmers often need to buy in fodder to fill the autumn feed gap. Integrating perennial native plantings can reduce this outlay.

Areas that experience dryland salinity also represent a priority for Shade Shelter Fodder. For example, up to one million hectares of Western Australia’s agricultural land is affected by dryland salinity, and a further 360,000 ha in South Australia. These areas are now relatively unproductive for pastures, or for cropping, and export salt into creeks and river systems.

Shade Shelter Fodder can provide grazing value from these areas and help halt or reverse land degradation. Introducing improved native fodder species to salt affected land to increase the feed value for livestock is profitable across a broad range of environments, production conditions and commodity price assumptions.

Why Shade Shelter Fodder? What are the costs and benefits?

Studies of the Shade Shelter Fodder® system across regions and states are consistent in showing that including perennial shrubs in a mixed farming system indicates a stocking rate gain and increased productivity per animal that increases farm profits by 15-24%.

As with most tailored solutions, the costs depend on the design agreed upon, the property’s characteristics, and climatic factors which may all influence site preparation and the need for infill planting over the first three years.

The net profit value of investment in Shade Shelter Fodder is estimated at $290 per farmed hectare, with a payback period of up to 11 years. This profit is gained by reducing supplementary feeding costs during autumn and by deferring the grazing of pastures on other parts of the farm, which increases seasonal feed availability and can support a higher stocking rate and/or improved animal wellbeing. The payback period can be significantly shorter than 11 years too, depending on the financial model employed.

Plantings also have the potential to provide year-round groundcover (reducing loss of topsoil and improving water infiltration) and options for managing saline soils – potentially increasing farm capital values.

This Shade Shelter Fodder planting in Western Australia is in active use within a rotational grazing system.

Higher net returns can be achieved with the inclusion and management of the Shade Shelter Fodder areas for carbon sequestration as well as grazing, and the returns are usually seen sooner, with the payback period indicated at seven years. However, if the landholder decides to pursue carbon credits from the planting, there is a cost associated with monitoring and auditing expenses over the 25-year credit period.

If a cost-share arrangement is adopted (a co-investor shares establishment costs and carbon revenues) then net returns to the farmer will be reduced, but so are upfront investment requirements, and the payback period may also be reduced depending on the cost-share mix.

Interested in what a Shade Shelter Fodder® planting could do for your property? Get in touch by submitting an expression of interest via our landholder registration page.

Once you have registered, our team will contact you for a discussion about what you want to achieve on your property and whether we can assist.