Performance of breeding ewes on lucerne - subterranean clover pastures
Pasture production, ewe and lamb growth, ewe wool production and diet quality were studied on lucerne-subterranean clover pastures at Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. Lucerne was sown at rates of 0.75 to 3.0 kg/ha, and the pastures were rotationally grazed with Border Leicester x Merino ewes at 9.6 or 12.7 sheep/ha, the ewes lambing in August- September. Lucerne density declined by 45% over the 3 years on all treatments. The clover cultivar sown, Woogenellup, had low persistence, particularly at 12.7 sheep/ha. The density of lucerne had little effect on annual wool and lamb production, although the ewes grew faster on the denser lucerne in summer and the sparser lucerne in winter. At 12- 7 sheep/ha, there was an extra 19% total lamb weight by the end of November and an extra 22% of finer wool (1 ¦m) annually, but the fleeces had a higher proportion of wool tenderness. The major limitations of the lucerne-subterranean clover pastures to sheep production were the low quality of the diet in early summer, and low pasture production in late winter. In early summer the lucerne was rapidly consumed, leaving only moderate quality clover and grass residues, which limited lamb growth, while in winter pregnancy toxaemia occurred, fleeces were tender and wool growth was low, particularly during a drought in 1976.