WHY YOUR SHEEP DO BEST ON MIXED HERBS
SPECIALISED HERB-CLOVER MIXES may be the answer to improving the reproductive performance of sheep and lamb finishing weights.
A Massey University study into herb-clover mixes containing chicory, plantain, and red and white clover has shown mixes can be used to improve the performance of single and multiplerearing mature ewes and their lambs to weaning, single-rearing ewe hoggets and their lambs to weaning, and yearling bulls.
The team at the International Sheep Research Centre at Massey University, led by Dr Rene Corner and Professors Steve Morris and Paul Kenyon, say that by correctly managing the herb-clover pasture, it can be a productive mix for many years and allows for greater stocking rates than the ryegrass and white clover mix, especially in the summer/autumn period. All this adds up to greater performance per hectare per year basis, a measure that is directly related to profit.
“This is what really counts for farmers,” says Professor Kenyon. “The mix has to be productive for a number of years if they are to get a return from their investment. We showed that you could get, on average, a 560kg carcass gain per hectare on the herb-clover mixes compared to 410kg on the ryegrass-white clover mix.”
The key to managing the herb-clover mixes for both high animal performance and sward persistence is ensuring post-grazing masses do not fall below 7cm. The plants also need a period in winter when they are not grazed.
Professor Kenyon says it is also important to note that when using the mixes to finish lambs it may take more than one year before the production benefits are seen because the pasture cannot be grazed in winter.
“Ensuring longevity of these herbage mixes is therefore very important.”
The team have also developed a sward stick as a guide for farmers for determining the herbage mass within a herb-clover mix. n