Safe grazing options for Mallee

Mallee farmers can take some simple steps to ensure optimal groundcover management and safe grazing of livestock following the recent rains.

The latest sub-soil data from Agriculture Victoria’s Werrimull probe indicates the first positive improvement in the moisture profile in 15 months thanks to the March rain.

Agriculture Victoria’s Mixed Farming Development Officer Rachel Coombes says keeping stock contained and off the paddock ‘green pick’ was a tactic that would allow plants to re-establish and enable better ground cover for soil protection.

“At this critical time as new plants establish, they need to develop enough leaf area to make the best use of sunlight and available moisture.

“If sheep are put on paddocks during this time, they can uproot seedlings, delay plant establishment and overgrazing can lead to a significant loss of plant density.

“Allowing stock into paddocks with insufficiently established feed will also result in them wasting energy chasing the ‘green pick’.

“Reintroduction from confinement to green feed should be a gradual process to allow the rumen time to adapt from a grain based diet.

“An abrupt change to green feed may lead to scouring, pulpy kidney, tender wool or pregnancy toxaemia.

“Caution around allowing stock to graze weeds may also be top of mind, particularly if they have been on dry feed for a long time.

“Heliotrope was one of the toxic weeds that grew with summer rains and panic grass could also be toxic in young lambs.”

Ms Coombes said paddock recovery would depend on protection of soils, balanced grazing decisions, weed control and preparation for sowing.

“It will be a bit of a balancing act with some tricky decisions to be made around letting green feed establish on the most fragile soils versus moisture conservation and ground cover,” she said.

Ongoing assistance and advice is available from Agriculture Victoria staff by phoning 1800 318 115 or via agriculture.vic.gov.au.

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