Biserrula (Biserrula pelecinus L.) is a relatively new legume species in Australia that has been shown to maintain higher quality forage late in the season than subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum L.).
Aim: This study investigated the suitability of lucerne (Medicago sativa L.), subterranean clover and biserrula, or a choice of both biserrula and subterranean clover, for finishing White Dorper and White Suffolk × Merino lambs during spring.
Methods: An experiment was established near Wagga Wagga, NSW, in 2013 in a randomised complete block design with three replicates and four pasture treatments grazed by lambs during late spring and early summer. Liveweight, carcass weight and GR fat depth of White Dorper and White Suffolk × Merino lambs grazing lucerne, subterranean clover, biserrula or a choice of subterranean clover plus biserrula were compared.
Key results: Lambs grazing lucerne had significantly (P < 0.05) higher final liveweight, carcass weight and GR fat depth than lambs grazing other pasture treatments. After 61 days of grazing, mean liveweight of lambs grazing lucerne, subterranean clover and subterranean clover plus biserrula was higher than of lambs grazing biserrula monoculture. In vitro digestible organic matter digestibility and crude protein content indicated that lambs grazing biserrula should have achieved growth rates at least as high as lambs grazing subterranean clover. Sheep genotype and pasture type affected final liveweight. Final liveweight was higher for White Dorper lambs when grazing the subterranean clover plus biserrula treatment than the subterranean clover monoculture (45.6 vs 44.5 kg; P < 0.05) but was similar for White Suffolk × Merino lambs grazing these treatments (47.3 vs 47.2 kg; P > 0.05).
Conclusions: Provision of a companion species or mixture of species when lambs graze biserrula during late spring to summer appears to offer benefits for lamb growth rate over this period.