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PDS: Seed Free Lamb

Did you know improving feed management on lamb pastures can generate an additional $90-$340/ha?

Project start date: 01 June 2016
Project end date: 30 June 2019
Publication date: 19 September 2019
Livestock species: Sheep, Lamb
Relevant regions: Queensland

Summary

Lambs in the upper south east region of South Australia have problems with grass seeds, due to infestations of silver grass, geranium, barley grass and brome grass. On-farm productivity is reduced through poor growth rates, reduced wool values, contamination of carcases and increased animal health and welfare issues.

This project explored the effectiveness of six different forage varieties and seven cereal varieties over 11 demonstration sites (290ha) for producers to achieve a seed-free environment for finishing lambs.

Implementing different management practices, such as over-sowing barley and rye corn varieties, providing crop competition and using alternatives to herbicides to control grass, allowed producers to generate more feed and increase stocking rates. These strategies resulted in an additional $90-$340/ha of income and gave producers the potential to produce more lambs annually.

Objectives

This project investigated the current herbicide resistance-status of common grass seed species, assessed the potential of new forage rye corn varieties and cereal varieties sown into established Lucerne stands and conducted a cost benefit analysis of practice change.

Key findings

  • Annual pasture production was increased by an estimated 1,500kg of dry matter per hectare by over-sowing cereal varieties for fodder into existing Lucerne stands.
  • Lamb growth rates increased by an average of 20% when animals grazed improved pastures (either Scope CL® barley or forage ryecorn).
  • Increased carrying capacity of the trial paddocks resulted in an additional $90 - $340/ha of income (depending on the forage system).
  • All producers who hosted a PDS delivered lambs to slaughter with no seed infestation issues, which increased value chain efficiency and improved animal welfare.
  • These practices allowed producers to either finish lambs earlier (with improved feed quality and quantity during winter), or provide a seed-free environment in spring, which improved pasture productivity.

Benefits to industry

The ability to provide good quality feed to boost lamb growth rates early, or have seed-free pastures going into spring to finish lambs, will provide more flexibility for producers. It will also reduce the financial burden of supplementary feeding and allow producers to manage their farms more efficiently.

MLA action

The producers involved in this project have used the knowledge gained to change practices and manage their businesses more effectively. They have also translated the information to producers who did not partake in the research, which has led to improved practice change throughout the wider red meat industry. MLA currently has no further actions planned.

Future research

This project identified methods to improve productivity of pastures to increase stocking rates and improve returns. The ongoing management and evaluation of these pastures will be critical to ensuring long-term success and full financial benefits to the industry.

More information

Contact email: reports@mla.com.au
Primary researcher: MacKillop Farm Management Group