Continuing dry times for livestock producers

DRY ARGUMENT: At times like this experienced sheep and cattle nutritionists are a valuable resource for producers.
DRY ARGUMENT: At times like this experienced sheep and cattle nutritionists are a valuable resource for producers.

TWO months ago I wrote “despite some showers and storms recently, much of my patch of NSW (Central Tablelands and Slopes) is very dry with little ground cover and dwindling water supplies”.

Apart from those superior managers who got under storms recently, on the Central Tablelands the situation has deteriorated even more.

We are approaching winter with little or no rain on the horizon.

Most of the producers I have spoken to have recently sold most stock other than their core breeding herd and are preparing to feed for the next four months.

Some, however, have been forced to sell more because they risk running out of water.

As most livestock owners in the Central Tablelands calve and lamb in the late winter and early spring, they are feeding cows and ewes to maintain weight.

Cost effective energy is the name of the game for most. I recommend the DPI Drought Feed Calculator app as a useful guide to how much should be feed to ewes and cows. If it can’t be found, please call either the DPI or LLS or a member of gen Y.

At times like this experienced sheep and cattle nutritionists are a valuable resource.

Livestock can experience health problems when being hand fed but if producers have their livestock nutrition right, stock often do well with low mortality rates.

Acidosis remains a risk as farmers introduce stock onto concentrates but most producers are aware of the need of introduction to grain steadily over two to three weeks.

Problems are seen when stock are changed from one feed to another.

I have seen producers caught with feeding pellets that may contain fine ground grain despite a green fibrous appearance.

As mentioned previously, with care dry sheep and cattle can be fed for long periods on grain alone but young sheep and late pregnant and lactating ewes need supplementary calcium.

Fine ground limestone at 1.5 per cent of the ration is required. Salt is also beneficial at 0.5 per cent of the ration.

While we all hate the idea that a simple mineral or vitamin deficiency might be holding our stock back, in most cases because stock are grazing close to the ground they pick up minerals such as cobalt and selenium.

Vitamin A and E deficiency is seen in a prolonged dry time.

As a guide, vitamin A and E levels last for six months since stock last saw green feed.

This is not yet the case on the tablelands but my colleagues out west tell me they are now seeing low vitamin A and E levels warranting supplementation.

Drought feed calculator

  • The DPI Drought Feed Calculator was launched in October 2014.
  • Users can develop full feeding rations for sheep and cattle by calculating daily feed requirements of dry, pregnant, lactating and growing animals, in tough times and plenty.
  • The app can calculate the total amount of feed required per head and for a mob of animals, over a selected period of time.
  • It provides estimated energy, protein and dry matter values for 71 different feeds, including hay, grain, silage and alternative feeds.
  • The app is free to download from the App Store or Google Play.

Bruce Watt is the Central Tablelands Local Land Services regional veterinarian.