The MLA supported Value Chain for Economics Producer Demonstration Site (PDS) Northern Australia Live Weight Gain trial, organised by The Leucaena Network measures live weight gains achieved on leucaena-grass pastures at three properties across far north Queensland and the Northern Territory over a period of three years.  The first twelve months of the trial has recorded improved live weight gains from leucaena-grass pastures compared to native or improved pastures at all three sites located at ‘Goshen Station’, Mount Garnett and ‘Pinnarendi Station’, Forty Mile, both in far north Queensland, and at the Douglas Daly Research Farm in the Northern Territory.

The most significant improvements have been recorded by Brett and Theresa Blennerhassett of ‘Goshen Station’ who have 600 acres of Redlands leucaena as part of their grazing operation, with an additional 400 acres currently undergoing establishment. Improved pastures of Bisset, Rhodes grass, urochloa, seca stylo and buffel form the inter-row pastures.  The station’s native pastures, augmented with a mix of Callide Rhodes, Bisset bluegrass and seca stylo, average a 0.3kg live weight gain daily throughout the year so the live weight gains ranging from an average of 0.52kg to 0.7kg per day, with the annual average daily live weight gain of 0.59kg provide a significant boost for Goshen’s carrying capacity and turnoff rate.  

Consistent and impressive live weight gains were also demonstrated at Pinnarendi Station and the Douglas Daly Research Station.

Pinnarendi Station hosts the DAF run trial, not only comparing the live weight gains between leucaena and the native grass pastures but also palatability and weight gains between the psyllid tolerant Redlands leucaena and the bushier Wondergraze leucaena variety.  Trial lead Craig Lemin reports that Redlands and Wondergraze with inter-row pastures of a mix of urochloa, indian couch and black spear with rhodes, red natal, buffel, seca stylo and wynn cassia, had similar average daily live weight gains of 0.83kg over the year. This compared very favourably to the grass only pastures of buffel and stylo which recorded average daily live weight gains of  0.66kg.

Peter Shotton, trial lead at the Douglas Daly Research Farm has been instrumental in more than 20 years of leucaena trials in the Northern Territory which have consistently shown improved weight gains from leucaena.  The current trial has achieved dry season live weight gains between 0.1kg to 0.4kg per head per day and wet season live weight gains ranging from 0.82kg to 1.0kg per head per day.  The leucaena paddocks achieved an average live weight gain of 1kg per day per hectare across the year. 

North Australia Value Chain 

PINNARENDI STATION

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Comments:

  • The trial consists of 42 head in leucaena paddocks and 9 head in grass/stylo paddock.

  • Leucaena has outperformed the grass/stylo paddock, which is steadily becoming dominated by wynn cassia.

  • Psyllids significantly affected all Wondergraze at the site during early April however all psyllids had disappeared by mid- April.

  • The Live Weight Gains recorded indicate that Redlands productivity is comparable with Wondergraze i.e. no penalty from grazing with Redlands – cattle readily accept it and liveweight performance is good

  • Economic studies show only a modest reduction in productivity (10% less liveweight gain in a year) from psyllid damage (to Wondergraze) would justify the extra (modest) cost of establishing with Redlands in psyllid prone environments.

DOUGLAS DALY RESEARCH FARM

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Comments:

  • Cattle were last weighed 17 May 2021 prior to turn off to another Departmental facility

  • 196 day wet season had 7 head in each paddock (1.75 head per hectare)

  • 111 day dry season had 6 head in each paddock(1.5 head per hectare)

  • On average, the steers made the 350kg sale weight.

  • The seasonal kg/ha/day was calculated as 6.6 (1.65 head per hectare)

  • The leucaena leaf on offer at the commencement of grazing was variable depending on the paddock, between 3 to 38 kg/ha (dry leaf equivalent), however most had been consumed by mid – late September.

  • Reasonable rainfall in late September and October 2020 (141 mm) soon produced green grass and leucaena leaf in all paddocks with ample leucaena leaf and green grass on offer since the early start to the wet season.

  • The paddocks were re-assesed in May 2021 for estimated Leucaena leaf and grass biomass and plant species present.

  • Total grass biomass was assessed between 8.5 to over 12 ton per hectare over the 7 paddocks. The calculated yield of dry leucaena leaf was 260 - 300 kg /ha from 4 of the paddocks and 25 – 30 kg from the low density Leucaena paddock.

  • Dry season individual live weight gains (14-07-2020 to 2-11-2020) varied between .1 to .4 kg/head/day averaging 13 kg for the grass paddocks (0.12 kg/h/day) and for the Leucaena –grass paddocks 26 kg (0.23 kg/h/day).

  • Wet season individual live weight gains (2-11-2020 to 17-05-2021) varied between .82 and 1.0 kg/head/day and were similar between the grass and grass – Leucaena paddocks. Weight gain over the 196 days was 160 and 161 kg per head (0.82 kg/h/day) on average for all paddocks. 

  • The Live weight gain for the grass and Leucaena – grass paddocks per hectare over the 307 days was 0.95 kg and 1 kg. 

GOSHEN STATION

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Comments:

The live weight gains achieved by leucaena are in line with those expected of the improved pastures – highest during the wet season and lower gains expected at the end of the dry season.

Cattle on the leucaena during the wet season do extremely well, therefore it makes sense to capitalise on this opportunity.

Liveweight gains on improved pasture is expected to vary around an average of 0.3kg per day with improvement during the wet season.