Richmond Valley beef and dairy producers will benefit from a new project measuring the feed quality of wet pasture species on the floodplain, according to the Department of Primary Industries.

“It is important to know the quality of these species so landholders can best utilise their pastures, especially if they are returning low-lying areas to wet pasture,” said NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) project officer Harry Rose.

The coastal floodplain sustainable wet grazing management project of the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority (CMA)  has been undertaken by NSW DPI through funding from the Australian and NSW government.

“Previously, NSW DPI has evaluated feed quality for a number of wet pasture species in the Clarence and Macleay valleys,” he said.

“This work showed that many species, including water couch (Paspalum distichum), provide good to high-quality feed. The quality of water couch can be sufficient for steers to gain half a kilogram (or more) per day over the warmer months and yields can exceed 10 tonnes of dry matter per hectare.”

The new project in the Richmond Valley will add to the knowledge developed during the previous work by looking at geographical and time differences in quality and by including a range of new species.

Species being tested include budding clubrush (Isolepis prolifera), spiny mudgrass (Pseudoraphis spinescens), matgrass (Hemarthria uncinata), grey rush (Lepironia articulata), fen sedge (Carex gaudichaudiana) and ditch millet (Paspalum orbiculare)

Mr Rose said using wet pasture species has both environmental and production benefits for cattle.

“One local dairy farm increases their milk production by one litre extra per cow per day when grazing the water couch,” he said.

“Utilising the native wet pastures reduces costs of chemicals, seed and use of planting equipment, and leads to more sustainable farming.”

Field days will be held later in 2009 to report on this work.

The project is one of a number conducted by NSW DPI with funding from the NRCMA aimed at reducing the off-farm impacts of floodplain grazing by improving water quality and enhancing biodiversity.

Recently NSW DPI published a new book called Grazing the coastal floodplain which highlights North Coast landholders who are meeting the challenge of sustainably farming low-lying areas of the floodplain

If you would like more information on work already completed, NSW DPI has fact sheets on Feed Quality of Coastal Wet Pastures, Water Couch, Water Couch Growth and Productivity and Establishing a Wet Pasture System.  These fact sheets are available by ringing NSW DPI on 02 6626 1200.