Lucerne is one of the world's most important forage crops. It is regaining popularity as a nitrogen source and as a perennial crop in sustainable low input agriculture. Lucerne is deep-rooted and one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world today. It is grown from tropical to temperate climates across Australia.
Lucerne is grown widely under dryland farming conditions or irrigation for grazing, green feed, hay and silage. It also plays an important part in pasture mixes with associated grasses.
Importance in Australia and Queensland
The horse industry is one of Australia's biggest industries and is worth more than $15 billion per annum. There are more than 1.2 million horses used for racing, equestrian sports, and recreation and there is a large breeding industry, with Australia producing the second highest number of Thoroughbred foals in the world, after the USA. This is why it is important to have a high supply of Lucerne Hay available as a supplement feed for our horses and livestock.
Lucerne hay production in Queensland, under irrigated conditions, is generally a 'steady but sure' cropping enterprise that rarely shows impressively high cash returns.
It is presently produced in Queensland for the domestic market and for own farm use. The majority is sold mainly to individual producers that deal directly with users. However, a generous portion of the total is sold through produce merchants and/or agents.
At this stage, very little, if any lucerne hay produced in Queensland is exported. Export customers demand consistent supplies of high quality hay. This is a severe challenge for growers in the Queensland environment, where haymaking conditions during summer can be more unreliable than those in more southern parts of Australia.
The live cattle export industry, is currently a heavy user of lucerne "cubes", a high density compressed lucerne...