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WeedfeeD Using coastal weeds (Siratro) to feed livestock in drought prone regions

Problem: As of the 28th of January 2014, 23 local government areas in Queensland have been drought declared. Much of Central Queensland, Western New South Wales and areas around the Queensland South Australia border are seriously deficient in rainfall, receiving less than 60pc of the long term average rainfall for the period ending February.

As a result many farmers are loosing their lives stock, with an increasing amount of farmers (currently 500) appealing for donations of hay to feed their live stock. On average a donated bale of hay, weighing in at 500kg can last only several animals a couple of months, however the cost and the necessity is ongoing. A long term sustainable solution is desperately needed.

Solution: Siratro (Macroptilium Atropupeuem) a creeping climbing legume taking over the coastal areas of Queensland and New South Wales. Native to America, Siratro has long been used as a pasture plant to feed cattle, suitable as a hay product or fresh forage. It has a high fiber content and its protein is easily digested by live stock. The use of Siratro on Australian dairy cows provided an increase in milk yield of 2kg/g. Whilst steers had a daily weight gain between .40 to .58 kg/d.

Listed by the Gold Coast City Council as an environmental weed that smothers the local native vegetation, Siratro flowers year round (growth is maintained with regular grazing by livestock). Due to its deep taproot, this plant can endure dry climates with hot temperatures, full sun light and can tolerate a range of soil pH (4.5-8). Furthermore Siratro can be sewn at any time provided it is frost free, as well as re-growing itself naturally from seed after a fire (which is unfortunately a common occurrence in Australia).