A 4-year field experiment was carried out in south-western Victoria to determine whether tactical stocking might improve perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) persistence and prime lamb production, compared with the more common practice of year-around continuous stocking. Tactical stocking consisted of variable length summer, autumn and winter rotations and continuous stocking in spring. The 2 grazing strategies were compared on 2 contrasting pastures: an upgraded pasture, sown with newer cultivars of perennial ryegrass and subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum L.) with 26 kg phosphorus/ha.year, and a more typical naturalised perennial ryegrass pasture receiving 6 kg phosphorus/ha.year. Paddocks were grazed by Border Leicester x Merino ewes, which were mated to a terminal sire to lamb in September. The effects of the grazing systems and pasture treatments on herbage production and stocking rate are presented in this paper. Herbage production was similar between the treatments, but tactical stocking significantly increased herbage mass during the growing season (P<0.05) compared with continuous stocking. In spring each year, the herbage mass generally exceeded 3000 kg dry matter/ha in tactically stocked paddocks and averaged 500–900 kg dry matter/ha higher than the mass on continuously stocked paddocks. This enabled the year-round stocking rate to be increased by an average of 9% over the 4 years of the experiment. We considered that the stocking rates could not be further increased, despite the higher herbage mass in spring, as stock reduced the dry herbage to a low residual mass by the opening rains in autumn. In contrast, stocking rates averaged 51% higher on the upgraded pasture compared with the typical pasture over the 4 years of the experiment. This indicates that pasture improvement and soil fertility status have a much greater impact on productivity than changes to grazing method. However, tactical stocking was able to increase the sustainability of prime lamb production on upgraded pastures in a dry summer climate, by maintaining herbage cover on the paddocks over the summer–autumn period.