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Field day to showcase alternative fodder trial at Walpeup

Landholders can get a first-hand insight into a fodder trial underway at Walpeup during an upcoming field day at the Mallee Research Station.

Field day to showcase alternative fodder trial at Walpeup

The ENRICH trial site at Walpeup.

The trial has been set up to evaluate the suitability of perennial shrubs as alternative feed sources for grazing livestock, particularly in low rainfall areas. A total of 16 species have been grown and the site was recently grazed for the first time.

The fodder trial will be one of a number of key draw-cards for local landholders at the field day, which will be held on Tuesday, September 28, from 9.30am to 4.30pm.

The fodder trial is part of the Enrich initiative managed by Future Farm Industries (FFI) CRC. It is funded by the Australian Government, with support from the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA) and Department of Primary Industries (DPI).

Mallee CMA chair Joan Burns has encouraged landholders to inspect the fodder trial during the field day.

“This trial started in July 2008 when 16 different species were sown” she said.

“Since then, edible biomass and nutritive value were assessed in both 2009 and 2010, and in autumn this year, the forage shrubs were grazed with pregnant merino ewes to evaluate grazing preference and determine which species sheep found desirable.”

Preliminary results available from the grazing phase of the fodder trial indicate the merino ewes tended to consume more of the Creeping Saltbush (Atriplex semibaccata), Tree Lucerne (Chameacytisis prolifer), Tall Verbine (Cullen australasicum), Emu bush (Eremophila glabra), Tree Medic (Medicago strasseri) and Mallee Saltbush (Rhagodia preissii) compared with more commonly grown saltbushes such as Old Man Saltbush (Atriplex nummularia). However, with the exception of the Mallee Saltbush and Creeping Saltbush, the species targeted by the grazing merino ewes did not produce as much edible biomass as the Old Man Saltbush, Silver Saltbush (Atriplex rhagodioides) and the Swamp Saltbush (Atriplex amnicola).

The research is on-going and recommendations regarding suitable shrubs for the Mallee will not be made until after post grazing measurements are taken over the next 12 months, to evaluate shrub recovery after grazing.
Ms Burns said the data collected from the trial will help identify which shrubs can be used in the Mallee for a more diversified feed base for sheep.

“If the trial shows the selected perennial shrubs can be used as an alternative feed source for stock, this could help fill feed shortages in summer-autumn, improve soil health and reduce erosion,” Ms Burns said.

“Furthermore planting shrubs for fodder could also enhance biodiversity values on-farm, while providing alternative management options for marginal and unproductive land.”

The Mallee Research Station Field Day will also include information on:

  • Break crop research;
  • Wheat, barley and lupin trials;
  • The Mallee Water Use Efficiency project;
  • Locusts;
  • The future plans for the research station.

To register for the field day, or for more information, contact Mallee Sustainable Farming on 5021 9100.

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