EverGraze Action – Growing and using lucerne
This fact sheet provides information on the place, purpose and management of lucerne. Lucerne is a temperate, perennial legume with peak production in spring and early summer. It will rapidly respond to significant rainfall events (more than 10 mm) throughout summer and autumn.
Established lucerne can withstand long dry periods and is well suited to irregular rainfall patterns. It grows in areas receiving as little as 250 mm annual rainfall but also provides good summer production in areas of up to 700 mm rainfall.
Lucerne provides forage with high energy (digestibility 65-72%, metabolisable energy 8-11 MJ/kg DM) and protein (12-24%). It is also an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamins A and D.
The quality forage of lucerne in summer, compared with senescent pastures, is well suited to spring lambing enterprises enabling higher lambing percentages and out of season lamb growth.
Its summer production also reduces supplementary feeding requirements.
Results from the EverGraze project suggest that lucerne can be used to flush ewes to increase ovulation and lambing percentages.
Lucerne roots can grow to 3m deep, drying the soil profile to greater depth than all annual and most perennial species. Consequently, it uses a greater amount of rainfall, reducing accessions to groundwater and associated salinisation. For EverGraze results on the performance of lucerne in the Proof Site farming systems, see the Hamilton Proof Site, Albany Proof Site and Wagga Wagga Proof Site pages.