The effect of grazing by sheep during the late vegetative and early reproductive phases was measured on long-duration wheat crops in 2 experiments on farms in southern NSW. In both experiments, grazed and non-grazed crops were compared with different N-fertiliser strategies. In the first experiment, grazing 40 dry-sheep equivalents (DSE)/ha for 19 days increased grain yield from 2.30 to 2.88 t/ha in a season with a dry early spring. The second experiment, in a more favourable season, compared 6 durations of grazing by an average of 32 DSE/ha. The effects of grazing varied from no yield reduction with 15 days of grazing to a reduction from 5.97 to 3.98 t/ha with 51 days of grazing. In both experiments grazing caused slower crop development, with about 1 day's delay in anthesis and maturity for every 4'5 days of grazing. Different patterns of water use by grazed and non-grazed crops, combined with delayed development, explained much of the effects of grazing on yield. The soil accumulated more water during grazing, which was used during grain filling when water-use efficiency for grain production was high. Delayed development also allowed grazed crops to respond to later rain. In the second experiment, grazing resulted in a net loss of 38 kg N/ha from the crop. Despite reduced N levels, the grazed crops showed no greater ability than grain-only crops to recover fertiliser N. The effect of the low recovery was that N removed during grazing was not efficiently replaced by fertiliser.
Virgona, J., Harris, F., & Angus, J. (2006). Effects of grazing on wheat growth, yield, development, water use and nitrogen use. Crop and Pasture Science, 57(12), 1307-1319. https://doi.org/10.1071/AR06085