Lucerne for Lambs

Posted by on Dec 14, 2010 in Featured Slider | Comments Off on Lucerne for Lambs

Lucerne for Lambs

The Lucerne for Lambs project has provided a demonstration of different ways to use lucerne in sheep grazing systems. This project has been based in Central Otago and developed from the original Marlborough work at Bonvaree. The question raised was how do we make this work in Central Otago? How do we get better use of lucerne in this environment, and how big an impact if you change the whole farm system around? The concept doesn’t work in this area unless the local issues are addressed such as winter feed supply, limited water supply and strategic water use, area of lucerne sown and so on.

The focus has been on using the best plant for the environment and then matching it to the farm system. The development of spring rotation guidelines and their demonstration on farm has provided some confidence to the farmers in this programme to apply appropriate stocking rates of ewes and lambs during spring.

A Recipe for Success 

In this publication we outline the results of 3 years of the programme and answer many of the questions the farmers asked on the way.

Read the Recipe for Success publication here

Watch Doug Avery on Country calendar recount his experience of learning to use lucerne to beat the continual drought

http://tvnz.co.nz/country-calendar/hyundai-s2013-ep11-video-5449172

and here Prof Derrick Moot compares the advantage of lucerne over ryegrass in the dry

http://tvnz.co.nz/country-calendar/extra-hyundai-drought-breaker-video-5452166

For further detail on the outcomes during the 3 years of the project check out some of the links below.

Conclusions from the first year

The three farms involved in the project have changed and adapted their farm practice involving lucerne.

Introduction to the first year of the Lucerne 4 Lambs programme

  • To increase both the total lucerne area and the amount grazed by ewes and lambs
  • To think strategically about the best soils to sow lucerne on to gain the benefit of deep rooting and use of available water. Many farms have traditionally used lucerne on the poorer dryland soils rather than the better soils where the productive potential would be significantly greater

    lucerne and barley grass

    Lucerne crop flourishing in the dryland of the Ida Valley

  • Adopt strategic use of available water to focus on lucerne and winter crop establishment

Take home messages from the first year

  • There is potential to significantly increase ewe and lamb productivity and profitability on dryland areas of Central Otago using lucerne.
  • Grazing ewes and lambs on lucerne will enable farmers to quit lambs earlier and at heavier weights (allows management options for both normal (dry) and drier years).
  • Changes the feed supply curve. This creates more feed available for ewe and hogget liveweight gain which is reflected in better lambing percentages and lamb growth.
  • Lucerne improves the use of available water, both in the soil in spring and use of limited water in the irrigation systems.
  • Analysis of the whole farm system is important to identify the opportunities available.
  • Farmers, seed reps and consultants need better understanding of ‘new’ or changed lucerne management. This has resulted from recent research and better understanding of the plants agronomy and its integration in to the farm system.

Read the report to Beef & Lamb NZ with results from year one

Field Day Presentations from year one

What is in our feed?

Feed quality and quantity, feed demand and supply

Feed quality and quantity, feed demand and supply

Understanding the feed equation on farm

Analysing the farm system at Rough Ridge, Ida Valley – the farm of Fraser and Murray McKnight
lucerne paddock too long for ideal grazing

Strategic use of irrigation, lucerne and winter forage crops in Central Otago

Gaining experience on farm – what the results say

Key messages from the on-farm Lucerne 4 Lambs demonstrations


Planning for Lucerne grazing in spring

Choosing the right plant for the environment

The photos below highlight the benefits of lucerne in the Central Otago climate

dryland lucerne after rain in january

Lucerne in January after responding to 75mm rain

Dryland pasture in January - 4 years old

Dryland pasture in January – 4 years old


Key messages for lucerne grazing management

The best management for lucerne maximizes both its potential and growth pattern.

  • Lucerne leaves grow from the top of each stem and after grazing new shoots develop from the crown which is above ground.
  • Spring growth can be grazed when the crop is about 20-25cm high
  • The expected production from a clean (weed free) crop can be calculated from the amount of water available in the soil profile (soil type and depth). This is because the lucerne only uses the water when it is productive, therefore bare ground acts as a fallow after grazing.
  • This is also why lucerne should be sown on deeper soil profiles to get the greatest benefit from it deeper roots.
  • When planning grazing the lucerne paddock area should be enough for 6 rotations (for a mob grazed at 10 ewes and lambs/ha). This allows the lucerne to regrow to the required 20-25cm between grazings.
  • If the lucerne is getting ahead of the stock you can drop a break and take it for hay.
  • Lucerne will continue to benefit from any additional rainfall and the potential production can be recalculated.
  • Always provide stock access to fibre (straw) and salt blocks. Lucerne is sodium deficient for stock as it stores it in the roots. Stock may or may not use the fibre but it will prevent bloat and red gut issues.
  • Summer— at some point allow the crop to flower and recharge root reserves although in dryland situations the crop may have been grazed out or run out of water
  • Autumn– allow crop to reach 50% flowering if this hasn’t been possible in summer
  • Winter—the focus is weed management which helps reduce species competing for available water. This is also when the soil water is replenished.

Lucerne 4 Lambs key messages June 2011

Results from on farm demonstrations in year 2

Lucerne 4 Lambs 2011 summary of results

Country-Wide articles on improved managment for lucerne

Grazing merino ewes and lambs on lucerne

Grow more lucerne and graze it

Prof Derrick Moot outlines lucerne grazing management to farmers


Beef + Lamb NZ have pulled together the recent work for managing and establishing lucerne

B+LNZ Lucerne – Summary papers for managing and establishing lucerne


May 2012 Final Field Day Presentations

 L4L key messages June 2011

L4L May 2012 Final Field Day

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