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Steer gains, pasture yield and pasture composition on native pasture and on native pasture oversown with Indian couch (Bothriochloa pertusa) at three stocking rates

R. J. Jones

Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 37(7) 755 - 765
Published: 1997


Summary. Pasture production and steer liveweight gain were compared on native pasture (Bothriochloa decipiens, Heteropogon contortus, Themeda triandra and Chrysopogon fallax) and on native pasture oversown with Indian couch or Indian bluegrass (Bothriochloa pertusa). This grass was not a planned introduction to the area but is spreading in Central and North Queensland and its value as a pasture species is questioned by graziers.

There were 3 nominal stocking rates of 0.3, 0.6 and 0.9 steers/ha. Each paddock was stocked with 3 steers of stratified ages. The experiment was sown in March 1988 and terminated in June 1993. The experiment, sited 50 km south of Townsville in eucalypt woodland on a solodic-solodised-solonetz soil, was sown in March 1988 and terminated in June 1993.

Increases in stocking rate resulted in a linear decline in both pasture yield (by 3–5 t/unit increase in stocking rate) and steer gains (by more than 100 kg/unit increase in stocking rate). Differences between pastures were apparent only at the medium and high stocking rates where, over time, Indian couch gave higher pasture yields and steer gains. Younger steers gained far more weight than older steers. Mean gains over 3 years were weaners 125 kg/year, yearlings 93 kg/year and 2-year-old steers 46 kg/year.

Native pasture remained fairly stable botanically at the low stocking rate, but the tufted perennial grass species declined at both the medium and high stocking rates. Sowing Indian couch hastened the botanical changes due to stocking rate, and it became the dominant species at these higher stocking rates. At the low stocking rate, the contribution of Indian couch declined from initial values indicating that this is not an invasive species in the area at a low stocking rate. Contribution of Indian couch to pasture yield was linearly related to stocking rate.

Nutritional quality of the Indian couch was similar to the other native perennial grasses though calcium concentration was higher. Increased steer gains were related to higher yield on Indian couch pastures at the higher stocking rates rather than to improved quality.

Maximum liveweight gain/ha was achieved at about 0.6 steers/ha. Stocking at 0.9 steers/ha was not sustainable. Even at the low stocking rate, steers would need to spend about 2.8 years on the pastures after weaning to reach 500 kg liveweight.

It was concluded that B. pertusa is a useful pasture grass in this environment giving steer gains equal to, or higher than, the gains from the native pasture which it replaced.

© CSIRO 1997

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