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 occurring within their flocks.
According to Central Tablelands Local Lands Services Brett Littler, grass seeds can cause serious health issues and even death, particularly in lambs.
He said grass seed contamination can cause major problems in abattoirs and place key meat markets at risk, with producers also running the risk of carcases being downgraded or rejected, resulting in significant financial loss.
“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,” Mr Littler said.
“Barley grass and native grasses are already starting to run into head,” he said.
It is advised that 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,” Mr Littler said.
He said ideally grass seed management requires an ongoing, long term strategy, and that now is the right time to assess your paddocks and prioritise planning for grass seed control over the next 12 months.
Geoff Duddy from Sheep Solutions recommends that if producers are concerned that grass seed contamination may already be an issue in their flocks, to utilise a trial lamb kill, as it acts 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,” Mr Duddy said.
“Producers can use this feedback about grass seed incidence to make better on-farm grass seed management decisions,” he said.
It is recommended that 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.
Mr Duddy said even keeping one to two paddocks seed free may be sufficient to substantially reduce the impact of grass seeds on your operation.
“Selective breeding enables lambs to reach target weights early, so they can be sold before the main grass seed period,” he said.
The Meat and Livestock Australia website at www.mla.com.au contains detailed advice on both short and long term grass seed management or contact Brett Littler Central at the Tablelands Local Land Services on 02 6378 1700.