Report Detail Page

Pasture Utilisation Workshop

Plants have been used throughout history for their medicinal properties. This use has often focused on human health but plants have also been, and still are, applied in ethnoveterinary practice and animal health management. In recent times the use of synthetic chemicals has become prevalent. Public awareness of the potential environmental and health risks associated with heavy chemical use has also increased. This has put pressure on regulatory bodies to reduce the use of chemicals in agriculture.

The most striking example of this is the 2006 banning of antibiotics in animal feed by the European Union. Moves such as this has increased the drive to find alternatives to synthetic chemicals and research has again turned to the use of plant bioactives as a means of improving animal health. Literature evidence suggests that there is the potential to use plants to enhance animal health in general and ruminants in particular. There are certain areas of animal health research where the focus has been on ruminant-specific production issues. Active areas of research for plant bioactives and ruminant health include feed intake and behaviour, wool growth, carcass composition, milk yield, reproductive efficiency, foam production/bloat control, methane production and nematode control.

There are a number of ways to approach bioactive discovery and this report discusses several strategies. Plants and their bioactives can also be delivered in numerous ways including, in situ grazing, supplemental feeding (eg. hay, silage) and as a drench (with the bioactives in various degrees of purity). The best mode of delivery is difficult to predict a priori and will depend on factors such as palatability, efficacy, toxicity and the levels of bioactives that are produced by the plants. Much of the research carried out to date focuses on temperate plants, usually of European origin. The Australian native flora is an untapped resource that may provide an envrionmentally sensible and ecologically responsible solution to several ruminant health issues.

Key recommendations from this report are:

  • The greatest value to the Australian producer would come through the development of plant bioactives for nematode control and bloat reduction.
  • Native plant libraries, along with waste streams from key agricultural crops, should be investigated for bioactivity in these areas.

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Title Size Date published
1.3MB 01/12/2006

This page was last updated on 12/11/2014

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