Mallee Sustainable Farming has been busy delivering the Mallee CMA’s latest forage shrubs project over the past few months, through funding from the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund.

Firstly, a well-attended workshop and field day was held at Murrayville in February.

Farmers from the area heard from Dr. Jason Emms on the way that plantings of forage shrubs can play a role in improving overall livestock feed resources and nutrition on Mallee farms. Key messages from Jason included the need to prepare the planting site properly to avoid competition from weeds, to plant a variety of shrub types to spread risk and provide a nutritionally diverse diet, and to include pasture in the inter-row space where possible. However, grazing management is key to getting the most out of forage shrubs, with short sharp grazings with high stocking rate essential to prevent stock from only grazing the most palatable species. The group then went on a field walk to see diverse shrubs ‘in the flesh’ at a nearby shrubs demonstration site, and to see a site where a planting of old man saltbush has successfully fixed a salt scald patch a nearby property.

Another highlight of the forage shrubs project was a recent workshop and field day at Underbool with Nutrien Ag Livestock Advisor Daniel Schuppan. Daniel took the group through a variety of topics including feed budgeting, approaches to confinement feeding and the fit for forage shrubs in managing total farm feed supply and keeping ground cover. The group also participated in a field day on confinement feeding setups and animal health in confinement.

To ensure outcomes of the forage shrubs project are widely available across the Mallee and beyond, an information package on shrubs has been developed and is now available on the MSF website. The package includes:

  • Fact sheets on forage shrub establishment and integration into whole farm feed supply
  • Podcasts and videos, in which producers experienced in growing forage shrubs share their learnings
  • A decision tree to help guide farmers towards a forage shrubs design that best suits them.

According to MSF’s livestock program manager Nick Paltridge, ‘There are quite a few farmers in the Mallee with great experience in using forage shrubs to fill feed gaps, keep cover on their country and remediate saline soils. It has been great to capture their experience through this project and extend it more broadly. It is also great to see the CMA supporting the re-establishment of forage shrub demonstration sites across the Mallee. 

The Mallee CMA has recently announced that these demonstrations will continue through a new drought resilience project until 2024, so stay tuned for more events on livestock nutrition and forage shrubs.’

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