Here is a snapshot of the main outcomes of the project. For more information about the published results, go to the Publications page.
- Livestock producers had real influence and control. The way the Cicerone Board was formed ensured that livestock producers could not be out-voted. The beginnings of the project are described here.
- Our research led to more reliable testing methods for virulent footrot. Early in the project, producers reported that the footrot testing regime had real problems. For example, some farms were quarantined even though they didn't have any sheep limping due to virulent footrot. Our experiments led to an improved and more reliable testing regime which is applicable across Australia. See link to paper here.
- Project focused on issues of importance to livestock producers. Before trials were started, we asked more than 300 graziers what their most important problems were - that resulted in choosing some complex issues that needed to be investigated within whole farmlet systems at a credible scale so that practical farmers would see the results as meaningful to their farms. A link to the survey paper can be found here. In addition to the improvement in footrot testing (see above), the main issues investigated were how to most efficiently provide an adequate supply of pasture for grazing animals and control intestinal worms using either increased pasture inputs or intensive rotational grazing. Farmers understand that these topics are, by their nature, complex and involve many important interactions - we decided to tackle them within a whole farmlet experiment at a realistic scale.
- Multiple farmlet system components were studied in-depth. The results from all of the farmlet component studies have now been published in peer-reviewed journals including papers on planning of the farmlets, methods used, novel statistical approaches, soil fertility, climatic analyses, pasture composition and herbage mass, satellite imagery, energy balance, livestock weights, fat scores and wool production, animal health, profitability, financial risk, optimising management, tree growth, extension outcomes, integrated analysis and overall reflections.
- The project itself generated some 30% of the total cash costs. Because we did our research at scale, and the project business plan permitted the recycling of income generated through livestock product sales within the project, we generated about 30% of the project cash costs ourselves - through sales of wool and surplus stock. In this way, with more time and greater scale, the ongoing costs of a farming systems project like this could be met from its own income generation. This demonstrates how credible-scaled research could be carried out for long periods of time with less need for external funding. This can help overcome the widespread problem that research funding bodies usually concentrate on funding short-term projects.
- We have left a valuable legacy in the form of some 24 peer-reviewed journal papers that, with the assistance of Australian Wool Innovation, have been made available as Open Access Articles to any reader with access to the Internet. For more information about these papers, go to the Publications page.
- Co-learning was an important aspect of this innovative project. Farmers learned from the research and extension specialists and from students whilst each of these groups learned from farmers.
- This successful project provides convincing proof that farmer leadership can lead to robust practical results for farmers, whilst enabling peer-reviewed publications in the scientific literature. We conclude that other farming regions across Australia, and internationally, could benefit by adopting a similar approach of 'compare-measure-learn-adopt'.