Grazing on Mitchell grass or mulga lands
Mitchell grass grows mainly in northern Australia where good rain falls in summer and average annual rainfall is 250-550mm.
The species are curly, barley, hoop and bull. Curly and hoop Mitchell grasses are generally considered to provide better feed value; bull Mitchell is regarded as the least nutritious and palatable.
Mitchell grass can be found in open, treeless areas with heavy clay soils. Individual plants live for up to 30 years and are well adapted for a harsh environment and moderate grazing pressure. When managing Mitchell grass, be aware that:
- it relies on grazing or burning, or it dies out
- continual over-grazing results in reduced density
- high grazing pressure threatens plant survival, especially during drought.
Mulga is a tall native shrub well adapted to the harsh environment of outback Queensland. It offers a useful 'stop gap' supply of food for grazing animals during periods of drought. While mulga and pasture grow together, they contribute differently to grazing needs of livestock.
A joint management strategy is useful for ensuring healthy pastures, mulga and livestock. Livestock will forage for fresh mulga leaves throughout the year. Fresh leaves have reasonable fodder quality and can keep stock alive or in reasonable condition. However, mulga is not a production feed.
Mulga digestion by livestock
Mulga contains chemicals called tannins that are highest during drought or in fresh leaves. While mulga has high levels of crude protein, the high tannin levels restrict protein absorption. Feeding your livestock mineral supplements can help improve mulga digestion.
Using mulga in drought
Mulga feeding is an important part of an effective drought recovery strategy. However, mulga should not be used as a replacement for pasture during drought as this maintains grazing pressure on an area, and is likely to result in serious pasture decline and soil erosion.
Always work within fodder harvesting regulations for your area. When feeding mulga during a drought, sell or agist as many animals as possible to reduce long-term carrying capacity. Feed mulga at the farthest end of the paddock from the water point, and feed back towards the water as the drought progresses and stock lose condition.
Cutting mulga branches and leaving them on the ground assists pasture recovery because it reduces water runoff and soil erosion. The branches also shield any grasses sprouting underneath.