Lamb growth rates on pasture: assessing options for finishing lambs in spring

Shawn McGrath, Graeme Sandral and Michael Friend

Type: Research Paper
Knowledge level: Advanced

Farm Table says:

Interesting research out of Wagga that is really easy to digest and compares different pasture mixtures as well as different breeds.

What is the problem?

This study aimed to uncover the potential of a new range of pastures species and cultivars through comparing the growth rates and final weights of White Dorper and crossbred lambs grazing them.

What did the research involve?

6 pasture treatments (0.4ha plots) were sown in April 2014 in a replicated complete block design.
• French serradella
• Bladder clover
• Forage brassica
• Lucerne
• Lucerne + phalaris
• Arrowleaf clover + chicory

Each plot was grazed by 13 lambs between 15 October and 2 December (mean starting weight 32.2 kg;  five White Dorper (Dorper), five White Suffolk x Merino (WSM) and three White Suffolk x White Dorper (WSD).

What were the key findings?

Findings were as follows:
• Lambs grazing the lucerne + phalaris and French serradella pastures reached maximum liveweight on 18 November
• Lambs grazing bladder clover reached maximum weight on 26 November and
• Lambs grazing forage brassica, chicory + arrowleaf clover and lucerne were still gaining weight at the conclusion of the experiment (2 December).
• Final liveweights were highest for lambs grazing the arrowleaf clover + chicory pasture.

Final comment

The research concludes that pastures that allow high lamb growth rates in late-spring and early summer are likely to facilitate an increase in production for meat-based livestock systems.

2015 - Australia - Shawn McGrath, Graeme Sandral and Michael Friend
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