Performance of sheep systems grazing perennial pastures. 1. Pasture persistence and enterprise productivity

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Abstract

Abstract. Sheep production can be optimised by matching the pasture supply curve to feed demand. This study evaluated the production from four management systems using different combinations of lambing time (winter, split or spring), ram breed (Merino vs Terminal), and percentage of summer-active pasture species (40 vs 20% lucerne), between 2006 and 2010 in southern New South Wales. All systems were stocked at a similar mid-winter dry sheep equivalent per hectare (8, 10.2, 13, 11.2 and 11.2 in 2006 to 2010, respectively), and there were three replicates of each system. Groundcover and pasture persistence were not adversely impacted by sheep system since sheep were removed at predetermined biomass triggers. Wool production per hectare was up to 178% (12 kg/ha) higher (P<0.001) in systems where a later month of lambing allowed an increase in ewe numbers per hectare at the same midwinter stocking rate. The quantity of lamb sold per hectare was not consistently higher in any one system, or systems producing crossbred compared with only Merino lambs, due to variation in the weight and age of lambs at sale, but was increased (P<0.001) by 175 kg/ha through use of 40% compared with 20% lucerne in a high rainfall year. The risk of requiring high levels of supplementary feeding was higher in systems with later lambing due to below average rainfall between 2006 and 2009. Large increases in production can be achieved from the same pasture base through choice of management system with different lambing time, stocking rate or ram breed, but flexibility is needed to optimise production in varying seasonal conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)388-405
Number of pages18
JournalAnimal Production Science
Volume60
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2019

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