Old man saltbush

NOTE: The information in this Agnote must be read in conjunction with Introduction to selecting and using pastures in NSW, which covers information on areas of adaptation, sources of variability, species mixtures, and important issues related to animal health and the conservation of native vegetation.
Pasture type and use Shrubs are grown in hedgerows as block or alley plantings across the farm to provide high-protein green feed during periods of feed shortage.
Area of adaptation Suitable for most of the main ‘wheatbelt’ areas of the Slopes and Plains of NSW.

Areas of ‘saline land’ should only be planted to saltbush to reclaim that land and to assist in regeneration of other species. These areas can provide intermittent browse for animals but are unlikely to be economically productive.

Min. average annual rainfall Not recommended for areas with less than 300 mm average annual rainfall, or more than 600 mm average annual rainfall.
  • Provides all-year grazing of green feed by extending feed availability into dry periods.
  • Managers can readily see how much feed is available for the medium term.
  • May allow change of enterprise in some situations.
  • Provides off-ground grazing — reduces worm spread.
  • Reduces risk in production systems by allowing stock to be sold in market condition.
  • An excellent plant for reducing the threat of dryland salinity on vulnerable soils.
  • Requires good management in all seasons to maintain plant production and vigour.
  • Seemingly costly to establish (up to $700/ha).
  • Reduces other land use options as it is a perennial planting.
  • Needs a good pasture or grain supplement to maximise production.
  • A good-quality water supply is needed for stock.
  • Establishment of stands takes about 12–18 months from planting.
  • Old leaf becomes unpalatable and may contain excessive levels of salt.
  • Animals need to adapt to saltbush and should graze it for prolonged periods once introduced to it (i.e. there is a need to have several paddocks for stock to move through).
  • Requires relatively large areas of plants to get productive returns.
Soil requirements Suited to most soils except very acid sandy soils, cracking clays, and areas subject to frequent flooding.
Varieties No varieties of the species have been released. Clonal propagation of selected plants is possible, but establishment is costly.
Planting rate: 500–2700 plants/ha. Seedlings planted at the higher density are usually planted in 3–4 m rows with 1–1.2 m intrarow spacings.

Direct seeding is possible, but is not recommended for most areas of NSW as it is considered very risky.

Sowing time Can be planted in the cooler months (avoid June–July) when adequate moisture is available. Seedlings should be ‘watered in’.
Companion species Needs adjacent pasture areas or alleys to supply an energy source for livestock.
Inoculation Not required.
Major nutrient deficiencies Has only moderate energy levels, and protein may not be effectively used by the animal if sufficient supplemental feed is not provided.
Main insect pests None of significance if stands are properly managed. Minor infestations of chequered blue-butterfly, pasture day moth and weed web moth or cotton webspinner may occur in some seasons when the right climatic conditions exist.
Main diseases None of significance known.
Management Not recommended ‘only as a drought forage’ — needs to be grazed regularly and in both good and bad seasons.

Grazing should be no longer than 3 weeks for any one period, followed by a 6–12 month recovery period.

Stock should be removed when 10% leaf remains. Plants may need periodic pruning to lower the branch height so that leaf is kept at the ‘bite-height’ of animals.

Saltbush should not comprise more than about a third of the diet, as salt levels will start to reduce production efficiency.

Livestock disorders of particular note The saltbush family of plants are known to accumulate significant amounts of oxalates, nitrates and salt (sodium salts) — livestock poisoning has occasionally been associated with each of these substances on saltbush pastures:
  • Oxalate and nitrate poisoning are usually a result of hungry animals suddenly gaining access to large amounts of young succulent saltbush plants.
  • Salt poisoning is usually associated with failure to ensure a good water supply for animals on these pastures.


Technical information and comments on the establishment and use of saltbush were provided by Mr Andrew Sippel, Grazing Management Systems Pty Ltd, Narromine. His contribution is gratefully acknowledged.

Advice on livestock health disorders was provided by Dr Chris Bourke, Principal Research Scientist, NSW Agriculture, Orange. His contribution is gratefully acknowledged.