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Effects of clover in the diet of grazed lambs on production and carcass composition

  • J. E. Vipond (a1), G. Swift (a1), R. C. Noble (a2) and G. Horgan (a3)


The effect of grazing clover on ewes and lambs was studied using nitrogen-fertilized grass (G) and grass/white clover pastures (GC) containing proportionately 0·18 clover. Carcasses of lambs grazed on GC were significantly heavier than carcasses of lambs grazed on G pastures. An interaction with weaning occurred. Carcasses from lambs grazed on GC for 53 days post weaning were 2·3 kg heavier (F < 0·01) but lambs slaughtered at weaning had similar carcass weights. Diet had no effect on relative joint components of carcasses. The effect of clover in the diet on carcass weight was attributed to higher levels of protein retention.

Analysis of the fatty acid composition of intramuscular and subcutaneous and perirenal lipids indicated small but significant effects of diet. Lean tissue lipids of lambs grazing clover showed significant increases in C18:2 and reduced C20: 5 fatty acids. In tissue fats there were small increases in C14:0, C16:0 and C18:2 with reduced C18:1 content.

Twin suckled lambs grazing GC for 94 days from turn-out in early April showed increased live-weight gain over lambs on G of 336 v. 287 g/day (s.e.d. 84; P < 0.001). Post weaning live-weight gain of lambs was 173 and 221 g/day on G and GC respectively. Sward height was maintained at 5.18 and 5.24 (s.e.d. 0.075) cm on G and GC paddocks by adjusting ewe numbers. GC pastures carried proportionately 0.82 of the stock on G pastures but output of lamb was similar at 1289 and 1247 kg/ha for G and GC respectively.

Results showed that the production penalty of lower stocking rate associated with grass/clover v. grass fertilized with 190 kg nitrogen per ha was ameliorated by higher lamb live-weight gain and carcass weight without change in joint composition or nutritionally significant change in fatty acid composition of carcass tissues.



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