Southern slopes of New South Wales
In the Murrumbidgee catchment, EverGraze has established several experiments. A major systems experiment is studying prime lamb production from phalaris, lucerne and tall fescue pastures. The effect of summer active perennials on the ovulation rates of Merino ewes is being assessed. Also, 2 trials have been established to study the use of woody and herbaceous perennials to provide shelter to sheep and increase water use.
Current animal production systems in this catchment are a mix of annual, improved perennial and native perennial pastures. These systems allow substantial water leakage below the root zone, making a significant contribution to groundwater recharge, which in turn contributes to dryland salinity.
EverGraze is testing farming systems which will address these environmental concerns, but importantly will be more profitable than current systems.
Computer modelling has shown that use of perennial pastures alone is not sufficient to meet recharge targets. Lucerne cannot be grown in many areas due to low soil pH and phalaris has limited potential to use summer rainfall. It is therefore important to look for ways to incorporate shrubs into the landscape to increase water use and benefit livestock.
The Wagga Wagga research has three key aspects:
The 60ha experiment is comparing the profit and environmental outcomes of four different farm systems. Each of these systems is managed as a farmlets, with each farmlet having separate paddocks of lucerne (20%), phalaris (60%) and tall fescue (20%). Merino ewes of known high fertility are joined each year to either terminal sires or Merino sires.
A - Self-replacing Merino; July lambing, represents traditional practice for the region.
B – Later Lambing 20% lucerne; September lambing, half of ewes joined to Merino sires and half to terminal sires.
C – Later Lambing 40% lucerne; September lambing half of ewes joined to Merino sires and half to terminal sires, double the proportion of lucerne than other treatments.
D – Split Joining; Half of the ewes joined to a terminal sire to lamb in July with the remainder joined to a Merino sire for September lambing.
All systems have the same stocking rate in July meaning that the there is a higher stocking rate (ewes/ha) on the later lambing systems.
EverGraze is investigating if short term flushing of merino ewes with green perennial pastures can increase ovulation rates. Ewes graze either lucerne or chicory for 9 days prior to ovulation and results are compared to ewes that graze either phalaris or phalaris supplemented with 500 g/d lupins.
Water use of woody perennials
The Wagga team is investigating the use of belts of shrubs planted across the slope to use water. The effects of these shrubs on providing shelter to improve lamb survival will be assessed.
Site Leader is Michael Friend, Charles Sturt University
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More information from the Southern NSW brochure