Fodder Shrubs – an option for improving conception rates and welfare in ewes

Susan G. Low, Sarita J. Bennett

Department of Environment & Agriculture, Curtin University. PO Box U1987 Perth, Western Australia 6845

susan.low@curtin.edu.au   sarita.bennett@curtin.edu.au

Abstract

Producers use a range of perennial fodder shrub species to remediate degraded and/or non-arable areas of farms in the wheatbelt of Western Australia. Fodder shrubs have been either been left ungrazed or traditionally used to fill the autumn feed gap for sheep in Western Australia. This trial aimed to evaluate the potential of fodder shrubs to reduce the potential effects of heat stress in breeding ewes and potentially reduce the negative impact of high temperatures on conception rates for summer joining flocks.

Two sites were used, a 25 year old saltbush planting and a 5 year old mixed native shrub planting. At each site, 4 temperature loggers were placed in shrubs at heights from 0.5 to 1.5 m above the ground with a control logger located on the adjacent fence. Maximum and minimum temperatures were recorded hourly across summer, autumn and winter. There was a significant difference (p<0.001) in maximum daily temperature between loggers at both sites with daily maximum temperatures reduced when compared to the control. Maximum temperature reduced by up to 1.5oC in the saltbush and by up to 3oC in the mixed species site within seasons.

Fodder shrubs have the potential to reduce heat stress on mating ewes by reducing ambient temperature during summer joining. Mixed plantings that include shrubs that have varied mature heights provide more shade than saltbush sites. Decreasing ambient temperature may result in increased ovulation rates, increased conception and lambing rates and improved lamb survival.

 

Host

The Australian Society of Agronomy is the professional body for agronomists in Australia. It has approximately 500 active members drawn from government, universities, research organisations and the private sector.

Photo Credits

David Marland Photography david_marland@hotmail.com Southern Farming Systems Agriculture Victoria

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