Pasture growth and quality, and lamb growth rates were measured on a conventional grass based trial unit of 87.8 ha and a high legume unit of 85.1 ha, established to investigate climate-risk management strategies within high stocking rate dryland sheep farming systems. There was no difference between the units in total pasture production with a pasture utilization of 71.7% and 74.3% on the grass and legume units, respectively. Metabolisable energy values remained close to, or above, the target values throughout the growing season. Preweaning lamb growth rates averaged 304 g/day on both units. There were significant differences between singles (342 g/day), twins (300 g/day) and triplets (254 g/day) and between lambs from first cycle (294 g/day) and main mob ewes (315 g/day). There were some differences in lamb growth rates between different pastures types but these were not consistent between years. Post-weaning growth rates averaged 137 g/day with significant differences attributable to litter size, mob and year. Growth from birth to sale averaged 295 g/day, slightly less than the target of 300 g/day. Thus high lamb growth rates are possible on a range of pasture types on dryland at low pasture covers of high quality.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 71, Invercargill, 103-108, 2011
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