Selecting the right pasture species

It is important to select the right pasture mix for your land and livestock. There is a wide selection of legume, grass and pasture species available for Queensland conditions. Investigate the characteristics of various native and sown pasture species, and talk to people with practical knowledge about local pasture, before deciding on the right species for you.

Selecting pasture species for quantity and quality

When selecting species for quantity, use forage sorghums or tropical grasses. When selecting for quality, particularly protein content, select annual forages, tropical or temperate legumes, or nitrogen fertilised grasses.

Choosing a grazing pasture mix

Before deciding on a grazing pasture mix, consider the:

  • climate, especially rainfall and frost
  • land type
  • native and sown pasture species that grow well locally
  • soil type and health
  • type of animals to be grazed
  • current environment or existing pasture
  • proposed grazing management system
  • need for annual or perennial species
  • best sowing method to maximise establishment costs.

Common pasture species used in Queensland

The following are just a few of the common sown and native pasture species available for grazing in Queensland. It's important that you research widely before selecting the right pasture for your needs.

A useful resource to compare species is the pasture picker tool.

Bambatsi

Bambatsi is the common name of all commercial seed (once known as Makarikari grass). It is a perennial summer-growing grass well adapted to the heavy-cracking clay soils of the Darling Downs, Western Downs and the Maranoa. Bambatsi tolerates drought, frost, waterlogging and saline soil. It is unsuited to the sandy and loamy soil of lower fertility soils.

Buffel grass

Buffel grass is a hardy, drought-tolerant perennial that grows on a variety of soils including brigalow and gidyea country. It is sensitive to waterlogging. Buffel grass has low sodium levels but moderately high oxalate content, which can lead to 'big head' in horses.

Leucaena

Leucaena is a deep-rooted perennial shrub legume that provides high weight gain in livestock, producing new green leaf after shallow-rooted grasses have died off. It performs best in tropical climates (with annual average rainfall above 600mm), but does not grow when the average daily temperature falls below 15 degrees Celsius.

Read more about leucaena in Leucaena: a guide to establishment and management (PDF, 2.7MB).

Mitchell grass

Mitchell grass 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 prefers an average rainfall of 250-550mm and grows well 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.

Saltbush

Saltbushes are common in deserts and salty environments, varying in size from small fleshy herbs to large woody shrubs. Only 'oldman saltbush' is commercially available. It is expensive to establish, but very hardy after a few years. It is a drought reserve or special purpose crop, not a production pasture.

Serradella

Serradella is a winter-growing annual legume that grows well in granite and sandstone soils. Yellow and slender varieties are used commercially in Queensland to provide high quality protein forage when the value of summer-growing grasses is low.

Subterranean clover

Subterranean or 'sub' clover is a self-generating, winter-growing annual legume suited to the sandy soils of the Granite Belt and the gravelly soils of southern inland Queensland. It is very palatable and provides high quality protein forage; however, it can cause bloating.

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