Present drought conditions are spreading and will remain with
us for some time.
Short term, dairy production will suffer as will the welfare
of cattle. Long term, sheep, beef and dairy production will
be affected into next year.
There is little that can be done with this drought for animal
welfare and production. However, let us look positively to
I am of the opinion that the benefits of establishing tree
lucerne as a fodder crop on farms to support livestock during
stress periods because of feed shortages from whatever cause
should be encouraged and supported by everyone.
Tree lucerne can be established in two years, will regrow in
40-50 days following hard grazing as well as being more
economical than bought-in feed supplements.
Plants will grow on a range of soil types, trees will yield
palatable and nutritious green feed over many years, feed
material has a high protein content as well as crude fibre.
The tree is a free-seeding shrub and will thrive on a variety
of soils in districts that may suffer prolonged drought. It
has protein-rich branches, greyish leaves and lovely creamy
flowers. The plant will withstand extremes of temperatures
ranging from -9degC to 50degC. It grows high and wide, also
providing wonderful shelter.
Tree lucerne can be used for stock food throughout the year,
is not toxic, does not contract diseases and does not cause
bloating. In fact, it improves animal health, at the same
time lifting the nitrogen content of the soil.
Stock farmers, in particular dairy farmers, can use tree
lucerne all year round and may reduce costs of other
Best methods of growing and managing tree lucerne is by
growing trees in strips 8m-10m apart and trees spaced 2m-3m
apart and grazing by electric fencing.
Sound management and stock control will produce 11-16 tonnes
of dry matter per hectare, at the same time controlling any
regrowth by heavy grazing with sheep.
Growing tree lucerne has other benefits including providing
food for bees, providing shelter, providing habitat for
birds, preventing soil erosion and acting as a wind break for
lambing. It will also recover following fire.
What a wonderful sustainable plant that will repay many times
its establishment costs. Judicious planting, management and
grazing of tree lucerne should be encouraged.
As a farming nation, we must review and promote any
improvements possible in order to maintain a high standard of
animal welfare and productivity. Come on - let's give it a
- Alan Diack is a Dunedin man who has worked in animal
welfare for more than 50 years.