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Wed, 20 February 2019

Experiences with Old Man Salt Bush - Geoff Chase

Why we grew OMSB

  • We were looking for an additional and drought resistant feed source
  • By growing OMSB, it would take the pressure off the already existing improved and natural pastures.


  • In 1995, we visited a property where OMSB was growing and looking promising.
  • The manager of Grazing Management Systems detailed his experiences with OMSB.
  • Research continues by liaising with Grazing Management Systems, the Department of Agriculture and talking to other farmers with OMSB.

Planning To Grow OMSB

How much?

  • Consider the costs
  • Area big enough to stock 1000 sheep for 4 months after 3 years.


  • Soil type had to be suitable for OMSB
  • Need to fit in with existing structures – fences and watering points


  • Paddocks chosen had been used for irrigation. The soils were heavy soils prone to caking adjacent to the Bogan River where there was a risk of flooding. It is believed that at one time OMSB may have occurred naturally there.
  • Sowed 7 Ha a day in single rows using a planter operated by two people, a third driving the tractor and a fourth coming along behind to ensure all speedling roots were well covered with soil.
  • Water at a rate of 250 – 300 ml was applied to each speedling at the time of planting ( around 800L/Ha).
  • Plantings:
    • March 1996 18Ha
    • June/July 1996 40 Ha
    • September 1996 18Ha
    • May 1997 13Ha

Early Management

  • Weed control during first 6 months in particular over the winter when the speedling’s growth is slow compared with that of weeds.
    • Roundup at the rate of 250-350mls/Ha controlled young grass without damage to OMSB.
    • Stocking at high rates (eg on plants 5 months old, 2000 ewes in 5Ha for 12 hours).
  • Training graze – light graze when plants reached 40-50 cms to encourage plants to bush out.
  • Stocking rates on subsequent grazes were up to 10DSE/Ha compared to 3DSE on natural pastures.

What we learnt

  • We would have benefited more by completing a HRM course prior to planting OMSB rather than later.
  • Our paddocks were too large.
  • Stock take about 2 weeks to learn to eat OMSB.
  • We left the bush too long between grazings. Plants become rank and too tall.
  • Planting in rows 3 metres apart makes mustering difficult

OMSB from here

  • Keep paddocks to less than 10 H, preferably 5 Ha.
  • Move away from tanks to troughs.
  • Plant in rows alternately 2 metres and 4 metres apart. (We are going to try plantings rows alternatively 2 metres and 5 metres apart to provide more ground cover to allow stock to adjust to a saltbush diet)
  • In future plantings we will only work up the paddock in 3 metre strips where OMSB will be planted so preserving the native grasses in between.
  • Use stock accustomed to eating OMSB to train younger animals to eat it.
  • Use supplementary feed when there is no ground cover available.
  • Plant more OMSB from current 110Ha to 200 Ha for coping with an average drought.

General Comments

  • Pastures are the real source of income – animals are the factory to convert plants to marketable products.
  • Better pastures = better end products.
  • Think about drought when it rains – that is the only time we have control over what grows. Use OMSB in good times to allow recovery of natural pastures.
  • When ground cover is scarce, stock are young or unaccustomed to eating OMSB, provide supplementary feed. Don’t panic and take stock off.
  • It is possible to plan grazings in advance.
  • saltbush is like any crop – the better the soil the better the crop.


  • Plan
  • Train
  • Plan
  • Use small grazing areas
  • Have short grazing periods
  • Allow all pastures a recovery period before further grazing if possible.

Think of OMSB in conjunction with the remainder of the property. Use it as a tool along with natural and improved pastures to maximize production and to assist in drought management.

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