August 16, 2013
Sheep producers need to take action now to ensure key grazing paddocks will be free of damaging grass seeds during the late spring and summer period.
Department of Primary Industries’ Development Officer, Sheep Performance, Geoff Casburn said grass seeds cause severe irritation to the eyes and skin of sheep.
“No one wants to see sheep suffering from grass seed injuries, consequently producers need to take action now to prepare grass seed free paddocks or defer grazing of clean paddocks until later in the season when sheep are removed from ‘seedy paddocks’,” Mr Casburn said.
“Time is running out as options for winter cleaning of pastures have nearly come to an end and producers are left with less effective options such as pasture topping.
“Unfortunately, even though pasture topping in the long term can be successful in controlling some damaging species, it does not prevent grass seed contamination in the short term.
“For some native species such as Stipa, controlling seed set is difficult. These paddocks should only be grazed prior to seed set or much later in the season following seed fall.”
Mr Casburn said grass seeds also cause major problems in abattoirs and place key meat markets at risk.
“Meat processors are sending a clear message to producers that any grass seed contamination of sheep or lamb will not be tolerated, and this is supported by the sheep industry nationally,” Mr Casburn said.
“Processors will discount carcasses contaminated with even small amounts of seed to cover increased processing costs and will take action to ensure sheep are not purchased from producers who continue to sell grass seed contaminated sheep.
“Producers need to take note of this warning as industry will no longer tolerate grass seed and has the ability to identify sheep sold both over the hook and through the sale yards.
“Industry is working together to develop a ‘national grass seeds action plan’ which includes education, research, communication and a national monitoring program to significantly reduce the problem of grass seeds in the sheep industry.
“This is an industry problem that has re-emerged since the drought and is exacerbated by recent wet summers and run down pastures.
“Producers need to take action now on the prevention of damaging seeds such as barley grass, Stipa and erodium (corkscrew) from getting into sheep.