Are you watching their poo

AG ADVICE - NOVEMBER 2020

Brett Littler - Senior Land Services Officer, Livestock

The reports are still coming in about poor performance of growing stock and the fact that they have not put on as much weight as people thought they should with the large quantities of feed about.

Unfortunately, this large quantity of feed once it has run up and gone to head and started to hay off, has the nutritional quality similar to or less than cardboard in some cases. This means that it would only be adequate for maintenance of adult dry stock, with lactating animals and growing stock not performing as expected.

As plants grow and mature the quality/digestability declines. This can be easily seen in the diagram below. As you can see once we get the large bulk of feed, the quality of feed deteriorates substantially.

A practical way to tell the quality of what animals are eating is to “watch their poo”.

Contrary to popular belief, stock rarely need blocking up and the higher the poo the poorer the quality of feed they are eating. Just think back to the middle of the drought when your cows were producing soccer balls instead of nice flat poos. The flat poos are really indicating that the overall quality that they are eating is highly digestible.

In the last few months we have seen the poo start to rise telling me that the feed quality is starting drop from 65% plus digestibility to 50-55% and we are now starting to fall below that in some places.

Just remember the rumen is a factory and if we are looking for performance we are really looking for throughput and the best indicator of throughput is nice flat poos!


Producers looking to supplement their stock are best using cattle’s manure as an indicator of when to start to supplement.

It has been my experience that producers start to supplement a few weeks to a month too late and miss a window to keep the animals growing well.

Monitoring the pasture can be a bit misleading for the unskilled but ‘watching the poo’ will tell you what the stock are eating, the quality of what they are eating, and if they are really doing well on all that feed.

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