March, 2022|System change

On-farm productivity boosted with new legume variety

A drought-tolerant perennial forage legume, the first cultivar of tedera (Bituminaria bituminosa var albomarginata) bred for Australian conditions, has significantly reduced supplementary feeding of sheep in summer and autumn, and boosted on-farm productivity.

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), the Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, the Future Farm Industries CRC and AgriFutures Australia primarily developed the new variety, which is licensed to Landmark’s seed business Seednet.

Tedera is native to the Canary Islands of Spain, where it is a traditional forage species for livestock including dairy goats, sheep and cattle, and it is found in environments with an average rainfall of 150–300 mm.

The profitability and sustainability of livestock businesses in the Mediterranean climates of southern Australia are constrained by the quantity and quality of the forage available over summer, autumn and early winter, and tedera was identified as a potential new forage species to fill this ‘feed gap’.

An important attribute of tedera is that, unlike lucerne, it retains its leaves when moisture-stressed, providing valuable, high-quality, out-of-season forage. It can be used to extend the growing season into late spring and early summer. It can also reduce or eliminate the need for expensive hand feeding of grain and hay to sheep to fill the feed gap during the dry season in southern Australian farming seasons.

The development of the new tedera cultivar aligned with the Sheep Industry Strategic Plan 2015–2020, which identified the need to develop new plant cultivars to adapt to climate variability, and to increase livestock productivity through new technologies to boost pasture production.

In early March to mid-April, Dandaragan (WA) farmers David and Richard Brown were surprised by the performance of their store sheep over six weeks on a 40-hectare paddock of tedera. Not only did the sheep do well and quickly improve, but the tedera also performed well, having been harvested for seed production about 12 weeks prior to grazing.

Farmers get a financial windfall of up to 20 per cent of the value of the sheep by bringing the tail of the mob up to the same condition as the best-quality stock with very little effort or expense.