Understanding the role of spring grazing of lucerne in the Central Otago environment


  • D.R. Stevens
  • B.R. Thompson
  • A. Carruthers
  • A.J. Wall
  • M.J. Casey
  • R. Phiskie
  • P. Young
  • D.J. Moot




The Lucerne for Lambs Sustainable Farming Fund project used on-farm data and whole-farm modelling to help farmers understand the impact of increasing the amount of grazing dryland lucerne on Central Otago farms. On-farm results from 2 years showed that spring stocking rate on lucerne-based pasture averaged 10 ewes and their lambs per hectare compared with 3 ewes and their lambs on dryland grass-based pasture. Lamb growth rate was approximately 50 g/day higher on lucerne-based pastures, resulting in a total lamb production of 358 kg liveweight/ha at weaning compared with 108 kg liveweight/ha on grass-based pastures. Whole-farm modelling showed that increased profitability could be achieved by the addition of significant areas of grazing lucerne. Profitability increased by $119/ha on a 5000 ha traditional merino property. Profitability of a 522 ha partially irrigated valley floor property running crossbred ewes was increased by $249/ha. Using lucerne for spring grazing also reduced the impacts of both winter and summer droughts in the variable conditions of Central Otago. Keywords: dryland, lamb growth, lucerne, modelling, profitability, stocking rate, whole farm systems.







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