The wintering of young ewes on Digitaria eriantha Stued, pasture in the North West Province

Author: B.G.J. van Vuuren, J.W. Cilliers and J.J. Jaarsma
Year: 1997
Issue: 2
Volume: 27
Page: 41 - 46

The object of this study was to determine the influence of different stocking rates (viz. 2, 4, 6 & 8 sheep /ha for a six-month period) on the performance of Dohne merino ewes grazing Digitaria eriantha (Smuts finger grass) pasture during winter (middle of May to middle of November). The trial was run from 1983 to 1986. Data from 1984 were excluded owing to insufficient rain which severely limited forage production. Each year the pasture was rested for the full preceding growing season (November to April). During years 1 and 3 (’83 and ’86 seasons) the animals could only stay on the pastures for limited periods. During these seasons approximately 75% (± 440 mm) of the total rainfall occurred during the active growing season (October to April) compared to 87% (485 mm) for the second season (1985). The generally recommended practice to rst pasture from January/February with the aim of utilizing it as foggage seems, therefore, to be risky. The three lowest stocking rates (viz: 2, 4 & 6 sheep /ha for a six-month period) were only suitable for maintenance (1.7, 1.8 and 2.8 kg /ha respectively). These results can be seen as a norm for years with similar rainfall. Unpredictability of rainfall prevents the recommendation of higher stocking rates during the winter (May to September) in this area. The live mass gain of the animals during the fourth grazing cycle (October/November) was disappointing ands Smuts finger grass pasture should not be utilized during early spring.

Keywords: Foggage, Smuts finger grass, stocking rate, wintering
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