Southern Dirt in WA have been operating a Producer Demonstration Site (PDS) funded by Meat & Livestock Australia. The project is called, ‘Alternative Fodder Crops for Turning Off Weaner Lambs/Hogget’s’, and has been running since the start of 2020. The aim of this project is to demonstrate an economical alternative fodder crop system to standing oats, to increase weight gain in weaner lambs/hogget’s, to reduce reliance on live shipping and to provide alternative livestock management systems to increase profitability by targeting markets.
The project is being conducted through a series of nine producer demonstration sites covering the Great Southern region of Western Australia. One site was completed in Wagin in 2020 and three sites were completed in Wagin, Kojonup and Narrogin over 2021. Four sites are on track to be completed over 2022.
A wide range of fodder crops were in the demonstration over 2021 including a range of legumes and oat grass fodder mixes. The Oats/Turnip/Vetch/Clover fodder crop mix produced the best daily weight gain across all the demonstration sites of 143 grams/day in Merino ewe lambs over 73 days.
By reducing the stocking rate on the lupin fodder crop at Wagin over the second year the Merino lambs increased their daily weight gain year on year from 84 grams/day to 126 grams/day and were able to graze the fodder crop for the entire summer. The weight gain of merino lambs on standing lupin fodder crops at Wagin and Kulikup were within 3 grams/head/day of each site (126 and 129g/day). Further work is required to determine the benefit of Turnip as a fodder crop for carrying lambs over summer. The oats/ryegrass mix was the poorest performing fodder crop only generating a daily weight gain of 120 g/day in 33.50 kg crossbred lambs.
The four sites in 2022 will include a range of fodder crops incorporating the findings from the first two seasons of the project. The results will include daily growth rates, wool production, morality, days equivalent grazing and a cost benefit analysis.