Tactical versus continuous stocking in perennial ryegrass-subterranean clover pastures grazed by sheep in south-western Victoria. 2. Ryegrass persistence and botanical composition Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • A 4-year field experiment was carried out in south-western Victoria to determine whether tactical stocking might improve perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) persistence and prime lamb production, compared with the more common practice of continuous stocking. 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 more typical 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. The effects of the grazing systems and pasture treatments on ryegrass persistence and pasture botanical composition are presented in this paper. The perennial ryegrass component of the sward decreased from an average mass of 1000 kg dry matter/ha on the upgraded pasture and 400 kg dry matter/ha on the typical pasture in spring 1996 to 100 kg dry matter/ha and <50 kg/ha for the 2 pasture types, respectively, in spring 1998. This occurred irrespective of the grazing system imposed. The decline of ryegrass was attributed to several factors including the very dry 3-year period, summer rainfall events that caused ryegrass buds to break dormancy then die when dry conditions resumed, the gravelly soil type where the experiment was located, and the high grazing pressure used. A number of species became more prevalent in the pastures as the ryegrass disappeared. Silver grass (Vulpia spp.) increased 4–5-fold on all treatments. By the fourth year, barley grass (Hordeum leporinum) and Bromus spp. had increased significantly with tactical stocking compared with continuous stocking. Capeweed (Arctotheca calendula L.) and Erodium spp. increased on both the continuously stocked and upgraded pastures. The subterranean clover component was maintained across all treatments over the 4 years, indicating that tactical stocking did not adversely affect clover persistence. Since ryegrass declined irrespective of treatment, the tactical stocking system used in this study cannot be recommended for improving ryegrass persistence.

authors

publication date

  • 2001