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Pastures

Management of pastures perennial or annual to maximise production and optimise utilisation is a goal of many sheep producers.

Perennial Grass Pastures

By Tim Prance, T Prance Rural Consulting, Victor Harbor

What are the advantages of perennial grass pastures?

  • They use rainfall more efficiently than annual pastures with half the deep drainage of water in a 600mm rainfall district compared to annual pastures. This reduces the occurrence of both soil salinity and soil acidity.
  • They provide ground cover over summer/autumn therefore protecting the soil against nutrient and soil loss.
  • Perennial grass-based pastures have a more stable pasture composition compared to annual grass pastures and maintaining ground cover in autumn reduces the incidence of broadleaved weeds such as capeweed or geranium.
  • There are less silting and dam water quality problems in paddocks with perennial grasses compared to those with annual pastures.
  • Perennials provide extra green feed in October/November and again in April/May because they are deeper rooted than annuals and with a root system that carries over from season to season
  • Feed quality for livestock is higher with perennials because they remain green for longer, and there are less issues with troublesome annual grass seeds in late spring/summer especially for lambs.

Perennial pasture productivity is determined by:

  • Number of plants/leaves per m2 = plant density 
  • Size of the leaves = soil fertility
  • Speed of leaf emergence = moisture and day length. 

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