Have some salt with your lucerne, say NSW lamb researchers

Sheep Central December 10, 2018

Lucerne researchers, from left, Dr Jeff McCormick, Mr Matt Champness and Dr Shawn McGrath.

A SALT supplement could help lamb producers make better use of dryland lucerne, according to research from the  Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation.

The research, conducted by CSU Bachelor of Agricultural Scienece (Honours) student Matt Champness, and supervised by Drs Jeff McCormick and Shawn McGrath, identified sodium deficency in dryland lucerne and showed a supplement of salt could boost the growth of lambs grazing these pastures.

“Lucerne is an important pasture in Australian mixed faming systems providing high quality feed in spring and summer.

“Research in New Zealand identified extensive sodium defiency in lucerne and salt is commonly supplemented to increase lamb liveweight,” Dr McCormick said.

“In comparison, in Australia it is rare for livestock grazing lucerne to be supplemented with salt.”

Mr Champness conducted a survey of sodium concentration in lucerne pastures and examined the impact of giving lambs grazing dryland lucerne a supplement of salt (NaCl).

“Our research found that 96 percent of the dryland lucerne samples from southern Australia had sodium concentrations below the levels needed for growing lambs,” Mr Champness said.

“A grazing experiment carried out during August and September 2018 found that providing salt to lambs grazing lucerne increased live weight growth of the lambs by 14 percent.

“Given that salt is a relatively cheap supplement this resulted in a big return on investment.”

Dr McGrath said providing lambs free access to salt when grazing lucerne pastures can improve productivity.

“Lambs were consuming on average 19 grams per head per day over the 27-day grazing trial.”

Mr Champness’ research was supported by a Graham Centre Honours Scholarship as part of the Centre’s commitment to support high quality student research to build the capacity of the red meat and grains industries.


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  1. Graham Centre, December 13, 2018

    Hi Gerald, if you want some more information you can email the Graham Centre [email protected] and we can put you in touch with the research team

  2. Gerald Martin, December 10, 2018

    Would this apply to irrigated lucerne?

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