Offering subterranean clover can reduce methane emissions compared with perennial ryegrass pastures during late spring and summer in sheep

S. K. Muir, A. J. Kennedy, G. Kearney, P. Hutton, A. N. Thompson, P. Vercoe, J. Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Sheep production systems in south-west Victoria are based predominantly on perennial ryegrass pastures, resulting in highly seasonal growth and declining feed quantity and nutritive value in late spring and summer. These changes result in reduced animal performance and increased CH4 emissions per kg DM intake. A potential alternative to the feedbase used in south-west Victoria that provides high quality and quantity of feed in late spring and early summer are legume-based pastures, such as clovers and lucerne. This experiment examined the impact of legume-based pastures on the growth rates and CH4 emissions of Maternal Composite ewes during late spring and early summer. In 2014, 240 Maternal Composite ewes grazed either perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.), lucerne (Medicago sativa L.), subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum L.) or arrowleaf clover (Trifolium vesiculosum Savi.) pastures for 6 weeks during late spring and early summer (November and December). Sheep grazing subterranean clover were heavier at the end of the experiment than sheep grazing perennial ryegrass. Methane measurements using portable accumulation chambers indicated lower daily CH4 emissions (g/day) from sheep grazing subterranean clover (23.5 g/day) than from sheep grazing lucerne (27.3 g/day) and perennial ryegrass (32.3 g/day) pastures. Methane emissions and liveweight changes appeared to be associated with the nutritive characteristics of the forage offered. Legume-based pastures provide sheep producers in south-west Victoria an option to increase growth rates and decrease CH4 emissions during a period when perennial ryegrass pastures are declining in nutritive value.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1449-1458
Number of pages10
JournalAnimal Production Science
Volume60
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020

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