Tactical versus continuous stocking in perennial ryegrass-subterranean clover pastures grazed by sheep in south-western Victoria. 3. Herbage nutritive characteristics and animal production Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • A 4-year grazing experiment was carried out in south-western Victoria to compare the effect of tactical stocking with continuous stocking on the persistence of perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) and the productivity of sheep used for prime lamb production. Tactical stocking consisted of variable length summer, autumn and winter rotations and continuous stocking in spring. The 2 grazing strategies were compared on 2 contrasting pastures: an upgraded pasture, sown with newer cultivars of perennial ryegrass and subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum L.) with 26 kg phosphorus/ha.year, and a naturalised perennial ryegrass pasture receiving 6 kg phosphorus/ha.year. Paddocks were grazed by Border Leicester x Merino ewes, which were mated to a terminal sire to lamb in September. In this final paper of the series, the effects of the grazing systems and pasture treatments on animal production and herbage quality are presented. The liveweights of the ewes were similar across all treatments during autumn and winter, but the tactically stocked ewes were 3–6 kg lighter than continuously stocked ewes during spring and summer. The lower liveweight was attributed to the lower (P<0.001) herbage quality on the tactically stocked pastures in spring (P<0.001). Both digestibility and crude protein concentration were about 4 percentage units lower with tactical stocking in spring. This lower quality was associated with the higher herbage mass (by 500–900 kg dry matter/ha) on the tactically stocked pastures, which presumably had a higher stem:leaf ratio and showed reproductive growth earlier than the continuously stocked pastures. Although there were differences in ewe liveweight, this did not affect individual lamb weaning weight or ewe fleece weight. There were significant increases in production per hectare from tactically stocked or upgraded pasture treatments due to the higher stocking rates that could be carried, 9 and 51%, respectively. In 1998, 544 kilograms of lamb per hectare was weaned from continuously stocked paddocks and 607 kg/ha from tactically stocked paddocks (P<0.05), and 449 and 702 kg/ha from the typical and upgraded pastures, respectively. This study reinforces the view that soil fertility and pasture improvement have a much greater impact on animal productivity than changes to grazing method with little effect on per head productivity. The negative impact of rotational stocking on herbage quality reinforces the need to use these systems strategically when benefits from increased herbage mass are expected to increase animal production or overcome sustainability or pasture persistence problems.

authors

publication date

  • 2001