WHY YOUR SHEEP DO BEST ON MIXED HERBS

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Feature Bed & Breakfast - Photo: Ge­off Ri­d­ley Beef + Lamb New Zealand

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

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