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Severe grass seed warning for sheep producers

On the back of a terrific season with grass galore in the paddocks, sheep producers are being warned to be prepared for potentially severe grass seed contamination.

“After so much rain there’s been fantastic pasture growth across the Central Tablelands, and we’re likely to see a big problem with grass seed contamination as grasses dry off over summer,” said Brett Littler from Central Tablelands Local Lands Services.

“Barley grass and native grasses are already starting to run into head. Grass seeds can cause serious health issues and even death, particularly in lambs, as well as the downgrading and rejection of carcases resulting in significant financial loss.

“Strategic grazing management will be critical this season to ensure valuable lambs are grazed in low-risk paddocks.

“Where seed free paddocks aren’t available, feedlotting or early turn off are useful short term options to avoid contamination and the potential for reduced productivity.

“Ideally grass seed management requires an ongoing, long term strategy, so now is a good time to assess your paddocks and prioritise planning for grass seed control over the next 12 months.”

The Meat & Livestock Australia website contains detailed advice on both short and long term grass seed management.

If producers are concerned that grass seed contamination may already be an issue in their flocks, Geoff Duddy from Sheep Solutions advises a trial lamb kill as a useful tool to assess the extent of the problem.

“This involves processing small lines (20–30 head) of representative lambs to predetermine the likelihood of seed infestation. Producers can use this feedback about grass seed incidence to make better on-farm grass seed management decisions,” said Mr Duddy.

Replacing problem grasses with fodder crops and improved pastures will not only reduce grass seed contamination issues but will also result in more productive and nutritious feed.

“Even keeping one to two paddocks seed free may be sufficient to substantially reduce the impact of grass seeds on your operation,” said Mr Duddy.

Mr Duddy also advises a focus on genetics. “Selective breeding enables lambs to reach target weights early, so they can be sold before the main grass seed period.”

For more information on how to manage grass seed contamination contact Brett Littler Central Tablelands Local Land Services on 02 6378 1700.

Media enquiries: Kylie Krause | 0439608370