Pasture and sheep responses to lime application in a grazing experiment in a high-rainfall area, south-eastern Australia. II. Liveweight gain and wool production
‘Managing Acid Soils Through Efficient Rotations (MASTER)’ is a long-term pasture–crop rotation experiment commenced in 1992. One of the objectives was to demonstrate the extent of crop, pasture, and animal responses to lime application on a typical acidic soil in the 500–800 mm rainfall zone of south-eastern Australia. Two types of pastures (perennial v. annual pastures) with or without lime application were established in 1992. Fifteen- to eighteen-month-old Merino hoggets were used as test animals and were changed annually. This paper reports the results of sheep responses to liming from the 4 continuous pasture treatments over 6 years from 1992 to 1997. The stocking rate was the same on all plots within a treatment during each rotation period, but was varied between treatments based on the pasture availability and sheep body condition. The most important findings from this study are that the limed treatments carried 29% and 27% more stock (up to 4 DSE/ha) than the unlimed treatments for perennial and annual pastures, respectively. As a result, the limed perennial pastures produced 27% more liveweight gain (62 kg/ha.year) and 28% more greasy wool (13 kg/ha.year) than unlimed perennial pastures, whereas the limed annual pastures produced 34% more liveweight gain (77 kg/ha.year) and 24% more greasy wool (11 kg/ha.year) than unlimed annual pastures. The significant responses to lime in liveweight and wool production were detected from the second growing season after the pastures were established. The increased sheep productivity on the limed treatment was due to a combination of increased pasture production and improved pasture quality. Perennial pastures showed a slight advantage in wool production, but not in liveweight gain. However, the seasonal variation of liveweight was greater on annual pastures than on perennial pastures. The larger variation in liveweight change could lead to more adverse effects on wool quality especially at high grazing pressures. Grazing management can be used to manipulate pasture and animal productivity to increase profits from lime use.