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New Crops Boost Sheep Health

From the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology

For immediate release


A group of lower North Island farmers are trialling two Mediterranean crops with the aim of boosting the health and profitability of sheep, and to meet overseas demands for less chemical use.

The leguminous crops are Sulla and Birdsfoot trefoil, which are being trialled by the farmers on the east coast of the southern regions of the North Island.

The project, which is being undertaken with the help of AgResearch's Grasslands Division at Palmerston North, is supported by Technology New Zealand, which invests in research into new products, processes or services.

"Sulla is a really tall, erect plant that can grow to almost two metres," Southern North Island Sheep Council spokesman Richard Gavigan says.

The plants contain tannins that help protect proteins in the animal's gut.

"They help animals to utilise more protein from their diet and excrete less in their urine," Mr Gavigan says. "Some tannins may also have a drench-like effect to combat internal parasites."

As a result, sheep get better nutrition, they have fewer dags and have less fly-strike.

"That's particularly important for overseas markets as many now require very low chemical residues."

Other benefits for farmers include better lamb carcass yields - more meat from the animal for the same liveweight - "so that means more money for the farmer", Mr Gavigan says.

As well, other trials have shown higher wool production and ovulation rates in ewes.

Mr Gavigan says the farmers decided to trial Sulla and Birdsfoot trefoil after a meeting they attended at Flock House, near Bulls, where they viewed trial plots.

"So they're being trialled now on commercial farms. They seem to do better in the north than in the deep south. The frost knocks them about a bit down there."

The Southern North Island Sheep Council is a body funded by WoolPro, an arm of the Wool Board, and Meat New Zealand.


Contact: * Richard Gavigan, sheep production consultant, Woolpro, Masterton. Ph: (06) 378-8106. Email: * Tony Hadfield, Technology New Zealand (Christchurch Office) at the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, (03) 377-9340. Website:

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