Ground Cover Supplement : GC Supplement - Integration of livestock cropping
11 GROUNDCOVER Issue 129 | July -- August 2017 | GRDC GROUNDCOVERTM SUPPLEMENT LAMBING BENEFIT KEY POINT n Grazing pregnant twin-bearing ewes on a crop in June leads to improved lamb survival and offers the opportunity for pastures to be spelled before lambing KEY MESSAGE Grain & Graze research in Western Australia has shown that sheep productivity can be improved by grazing crops. Trial host Michael Humphrey, of Walebing, says it has given him great confidence to expand crop grazing on his mixed farm. By Philip Barrett-Lennard n As part of Grain & Graze research in Western Australia, growers from the Moora--Miling Pasture Improvement Group (MMPIG) and the Southern DIRT group explored the use of crop grazing to improve the productivity of twin-bearing ewes either before or during lambing in 2015 and 2016. Their trials showed that cereal crops in early winter have high feed quality (metabolisable energy of 12 to 14 megajoules per kilogram) and an upright growth habit, which allows for high animal intake at low feed-on-offer levels. This enabled pregnant twin-bearing ewes at the MMPIG sites to gain 0.2 to 0.5 of a condition score in three weeks on crop. By contrast, similar ewes run on annual pasture either lost condition or gained less condition during the same period. For sheep producers who lamb in July, grazing pregnant twin-bearing ewes on crop in June makes a lot of sense. Lifetime Ewe Management research clearly shows that twin-bearing ewes with a higher condition score at lambing have significantly improved lamb survival, mostly due to an increase in lamb birthweights. Putting the twin-bearing ewes on crop for three weeks in June also allows some pasture to be spelled, which increases the feed-on- offer levels at the start of lambing, leading to better lamb survival and growth rates. If the stocking rate of twin-bearing ewes grazing crop is reasonably low (perhaps two to five ewes per hectare), any negative impact on subsequent crop yield will be relatively small. "We run our sheep at high stocking rates as this is a key driver of profit per hectare, but this isn't conducive to high lamb survival in our twin-bearing ewes," trial host Michael Humphrey says. "Over the past few years, as part of the Grain & Graze research, we have run some of our twin-bearing ewes on cereal crops both before and during lambing and we are very happy with the results." He says the ewes have been in much better condition at lamb marking and the grain yield losses due to grazing have been minimal. "It's too early to tell if we are seeing an improvement in lamb marking percentage, but I'm fairly confident this will come over time," he says. "Crop grazing has improved our ability to handle a tough season, but we will still need back-up plans in place for a year with a very late break, when both crop and pasture growth will be poor. "On the flipside, if we get a good start, we are now more confident to sow an extra paddock or two to crop and increase the winter stocking rate, knowing that the twin-bearing ewes don't need access to a pasture paddock in June and July (because they are on crop). If the season deteriorates we can always sacrificially graze out those extra cropping paddocks." o GRDC Research Code FGI00010 More information: Philip Barrett-Lennard, agVivo, 0429 977 042, firstname.lastname@example.org PHOTO: PHILIP BARRETT LENNARD The innovations captured in the GRDC- supported Grain & Graze programs have included the following. 1 Sowing canola with a vernalisation requirement (winter canola) in spring and grazing in spring, summer and/or autumn before recovery to produce high grain yields. 2 Sowing winter canola or canola with photoperiod genes in autumn prior to when canola would normally be established and grazing from mid- to-late autumn to mid-winter. 3 Sowing winter cereals in autumn to provide feed in autumn and winter. 4 Extending the sowing window for winter cereals in some environments to late summer (as indicated by more recent data). 5 Sowing photoperiod-sensitive cereals earlier in April. 6 Sowing temperature-sensitive cereals in April and using very high stocking rates and narrow grazing intervals to control the phenological development so that the crop does not become reproductive too early. 7 Using small areas of perennial pasture (most commonly lucerne and chicory) to extend the period of green grazing. 8 The adoption of biennial plant sulla to provide rapid early growth after the summer dormancy period. Sulla as a second-year plant has shown some tolerance to glyphosate. 9 The use of long-season pasture species and cereals to extend green grazing to late spring or early summer. Annual ryegrass, long-season spring wheat, winter wheat and barley and arrowleaf clover have gained wide acceptance. 10 Using awnless wheat as a multi-purpose crop suited to grazing, hay or grain production. 11 Sowing common vetch as a pasture. This practice includes removing stock and harvesting grain in suitable environments. 12 The use of summer- active grasses, particularly kikuyu, to provide green grazing on suitable soil types in summer. o GRDC Research Codes SFS00020, SFS00028 More information: Mick Faulkner, Agrilink Agricultural Consultants, 0428 857 378, email@example.com SHEEP BENEFIT FROM DUAL PURPOSE CROPS Michael Humphrey grazes twin-bearing ewes on crop ahead of lambing to improve their condition score.
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