UWA PhD Student, Chelsea Fancote, recommends feeding saltbush to sheep in order to provide a good dietary source of Vitamin E.
A saltbush is a native shrub, which is used to revegetate areas of dryland salinity. The Vitamin E, in a farm animal’s diet, helps reduce the unsightly browning of meat, which occurs due to Vitamin E deficiency.
Chelsea Fancote, originally from Brookton, WA farm, had began her research in 2008 on the potential benefits of saltbush as a source of Vitamin E to help improve sheep production, health and meat quality.
“Chelsea chose a degree in agricultural science at UWA because she wanted to contribute to the farming community. During her first class honors, which I supervised, she produced excellent results that are now published, fuelling her desire to start a PhD,” says Dr Ian Williams, Fancote’s PhD supervisor.
Fancote was recently announced as a recipient of the 2011 Mike Carroll Travelling Fellowship, along with fellow UWA PhD student, Xixi Li. Fancote was then given the opportunity to present and discuss her UWA Institute of Agriculture (IOA) research at the 8th International Symposium on the Nutriton of Herbivores in Wales, UK.
Fancote’s key points in her investigation on saltbush in sheep diet include:
- Saltbush can be used as feed for sheep to maintain liveweight over summer with minimal grain supplementation.
- Carcasses from lambs backgrounded on saltbush are heavier than those fed control pastures.
- Saltbush is an excellent source of vitamin E.
- Grazing saltbush is more effective in improving plasma vitamin E and preventing deficiency than commercially available synthetic vitamin E supplements.
- Meat from animals backgrounded on saltbush is redder and has a longer shelf life than meat from animals without access to saltbush.
“With salinity such a threat to extensive agriculture in Western Australia, including saltbush could potentially reduce the area lost to productive cropping and the additional biomass could provide a valuable source of green feed as fodder during typically long, dry summers,” says Fancote.
“Persistent lack of green feed during summer can lead to vitamin E deficiency and subsequent onset of the potentially fatal disease known as nutritional myopathy. Beyond the farm gate, adequate levels of vitamin E in muscle tissue are integral for meat colour and because colour is the main determinant of consumer meat choice, it’s extremely important for the sustained growth of the lamb industry.”
At CSIRO, Fancote has also been investigating the short term feeding of saltbush to young sheep. She hopes to determine how saltbush improves their Vitamin E dietary status, how long sheep needs to graze saltbush to boost their Vitamin E and how long this will prevent Vitamin E deficiency.