Unlocking grass finishing benefits
Victorian lamb producer Jessica Conlan will use a Nuffield Scholarship, supported by the William Buckland Foundation, to research better ways to finish lambs on grass.
Each year, Jessica and her mother, Jo, sell around 2000 heavy lambs off their farm 'Tumbywood' in Elmore, Victoria. They raise their sheep on improved pastures but in drier conditions have finished lambs on grain.
They are transitioning the farm to regenerative agriculture to boost its productivity and resilience.
Last year, they planted 3500 trees, switched to a no-till sowing system, and sowed several multi-species cover crops for the stock to rotationally graze.
"We were amazed by the growth rate of the lambs on the multispecies crops. It was also a great learning experience to see the sheep choosing to graze different species throughout the season," Ms Conlan said.
With an increasing global appetite for grass-fed meat, she believes Australian lamb is well placed to take advantage of this trend.
"The MLA Global Consumer Tracker shows that Australia's largest lamb importers, China and the US, will pay more for Australian lamb due to good animal welfare, safety, quality consistency and higher nutritional value," she said.
"So, global data backs grass-fed Australian lamb as an increasingly valuable commodity, making advanced grass-finishing systems an industry priority."
Ms Conlan will travel throughout Australia, New Zealand, the US and China to explore methods to grow more, better quality grass for longer seasons. These methods include forage cropping, rotational grazing and summer-active grasses.
"My work will examine these methods' true potential for finishing heavy lambs in Australia to future-proof our industry's reputation," she said.
"The Nuffield Scholarship will allow me to gather knowledge from across the globe and encourage farmers to weave this through their daily practices, cementing our industry as one of great innovation, quality and morality."
Ms Conlan's scholarship is supported by the William Buckland Foundation.