Numbers count when grazing for best nutrition

GRAZING GRASS: Young leafy kikuyu nearly ready to graze.
GRAZING GRASS: Young leafy kikuyu nearly ready to graze.

GRASSES aren't necessarily grasses when it comes to providing nutrition for livestock, according to former DPI graduate livestock extension officer Nathan Jennings.

Having completed the More Beef from Pastures workshop series, Mr Jennings said research showed that the decision on when to graze some grasses could be based on tiller leaf number.

"(This) refers to the number of leaves that can be counted on the plant as it grows," he said.

"Leaf material is of a higher nutritional quality than stem so the more leaf a plant has available to cattle relative to stem, the higher quality diet the beast can consume, which allows for better animal production."

Demonstrations were run between March 2011 to June 2012 at Tom Amey's farm in Dyraaba and Mark Hooton's property at Tabulam.

"Laboratory testing of the narock setaria and katambora rhodes grasses confirmed that nutritional quality of these varieties of grass was maximised at the 3.5-4 leaf stage," Mr Jennings said.

"There is a trade-off that beef producers need to be aware of, however, and that is that while the nutritional value of these grasses is highest, the dry matter yield of the grasses may still be too low to support livestock, depending on how thick of a stand the pasture is."

Grazing grasses and optimal leaf stages:

  •  Ryegrass - three leaf stage
  •  Oats - three leaf stage
  •  Kikuyu - 4.5 leaf stage
  •  Narock setaria - 3.5-4 leaf stage
  •  Katambora rhodes - 3.5-4 leaf stage

(Reference: NSW DPI Beef News December 2012 and Nathan Jennings)

Topics:  animal health cattle livestock

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