Charles Sturt University
Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation

Making lucerne worth its salt for lambs

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

Dr Jeff McCormick, Mr Matt Champness and Dr Shawn McGrathThe research, conducted by  CSU Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Honours) student Mr Matt Champness and supervised by Drs Jeff McCormick and Shawn McGrath,  identified sodium deficiency 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 farming systems providing high quality feed in spring and summer,” Dr McCormick said.

“Research in New Zealand identified extensive sodium deficiency in lucerne and salt is commonly supplemented to increase lamb liveweight. 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 per cent 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 per cent. Given that salt is a relatively cheap supplement this resulted in a big return on investment.”

Dr McGrath said, “This is a very simple approach to rectify the mineral deficiency, 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.

Mr Champness will graduate in a ceremony at CSU in Wagga Wagga at 2pm on Monday 10 December.


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Photo caption: Dr Jeff McCormick, Mr Matt Champness and Dr Shawn McGrath