The potential of Digitaria eriantha Steud. As summer pasture crop for growing sheep

Author: B.G.J. van Vuuren, J.W. Cilliers, J.J. Jaarsma and H.J. van der Merwe
Year: 1997
Issue: 3
Volume: 27
Page: 59 - 63

The aim of this study was to determine the potential of Smuts finger grass as summer grazing for sheep on two soil types at different stocking rates and fertilization levels. The four seasons during which the trial was executed, were relatively dry and were also characterized by a poor distribution of rainfall during the summer months. These aspects resulted in very disappointing mass gains by the sheep, owing to insufficient available dry matter. In most cases the animals could only stay on the pastures for limited periods. The fact that continuous grazing was applied may also have influenced the results. If the mass gain /ha, as well as the length of the grazing period are considered, it appears as if a stocking rate of 8 sheep /ha gave the best animal performance. Mass gain on Valsrivier soil was (p < 0.01) higher than on low potential Avalon. Fertilisation level (120 kg N + 20 kg P /ha /yr vs. 60 kg N + 10 kg P /ha /yr) on either soil had little effect on animal performance. The poor animal performance recorded during the trial leads to the conclusion that Smuts finger grass, during relatively dry seasons, has limited potential as summer grazing for sheep. This might possibly change during a season with a higher rainfall and the use of a rotational grazing system.

Keywords: Smuts finger grass, stocking rate, summer grazing, woolled sheep
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