Back to Extension, training & tools

Seed management

Seed contamination is the cause of significant financial losses for the sheep industry, for producers, processors and the entire supply chain.

Awareness of seeds and proactive management of the issue are essential to remain profitable and competitive. 

Why manage seeds?

Seed infested carcases can be downgraded by up to $1.50/kg or $30 per carcase. 

In addition, seed contamination can reduce sheep and lamb production, product quality and animal health, leading to reduced financial returns for primary producers. On top of this, further losses are incurred throughout the supply chain, with the potential to damage the image and value of the Australian lamb industry. 

Seeds are picked up in the animal’s fleece and within days many of these seeds penetrate the skin and move into the carcase. This causes considerable discomfort for affected animals, reducing productivity and leading to the production of downgraded products.

Four point plan to manage grass seeds

1. Develop an awareness of the grass seed issue and its impact on the sheep industry.

  • Understand the potential scope of the problem throughout the supply chain from the farm to the end product.
  • Identify problem plant species and their risk period.

2. Determine the impact and cost of seeds to your business.

  • Monitor stock for seed infestation.
  • Obtain feedback through a trial seed kill.
  • Identify losses in production and profit as a result of seeds.

3. Develop and implement a grass seed management strategy.

  • Explore all management options available for seed reduction and seed avoidance.
  • Determine the most effective and profitable strategies for your business.

4. Obtain feedback, monitor and review your management strategy and make changes where required.

  • Keep accurate records on key indicators for performance measure.

Management options

While seeds only pose a threat to livestock over a few months of the year, your control program needs to be a year-round focus.

There is always something to consider in relation to grass seed management regardless of the time of year.

Thinking about seeds only during the risk period is inefficient and will not control the problem in the long-term.

Seed management strategies

Strategy   Short-term Long-term 
 Winter cleaning  Y  Y
 Grazing  •  Y
 Spray topping and spray grazing  •  Y
 Irrigation  •  Y
Feeder lambs    Y
Crop rotation  N  Y
Genetics  N  Y
Pasture improvement  N  Y
Target market  N  Y
Flock structure/lambing time  N  Y
Fodder conservation  Y  •
Confinement/forage crops  Y  •
Feedlotting  Y  •
Shearing lambs and weaners  Y  N
Harrowing and slashing  Y  N
 Y=yes     N=no     =sometimes