Lucerne (alfalfa; Medicago sativa
L.) is the key forage for grazing in dryland temperate regions around the world. While rotational grazing of lucerne is recommended, in southern Australia the intervals between grazing events are often chosen in an opportunistic manner, to meet livestock production targets and utilise excessive spring and summer growth. To assess whether the persistence of lucerne is sensitive to variations in rotational grazing management practice, we report on an experiment with four sheep grazing treatments that was conducted for 2.5 years, including three summers, in southern New South Wales. The grazing management treatments were a crash-grazing control, frequent grazing, feed-based rotational grazing and time-based rotational grazing, replicated four times. The number of grazing events, percentage of time under grazing, lucerne top dry matter (DM) at the beginning and end of grazing periods and plant density were measured. The results relating to number of grazing events, percentage of time grazing and DM removed during grazing indicated that four grazing practices had been achieved. The treatments all had significant periods of rest for at least 73% of time and were empirically different in their approach but resulted in similar grazing pressures, in terms of overall pasture removed during grazing. Nevertheless, there was little difference in lucerne densities between grazing treatments over the life of the experiment. We conclude that there is flexibility in the rotational management of grazed lucerne provided adequate rest periods are part of the management program.
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