Stock containment areas - more than just drought feeding
05 Nov 2021
PRODUCTION ADVICE - NOVEMBER 2021 - THE BUSINESS OF FARMING
By Adrian Smith
Senior Land Services Officer - Mixed Farming Systems
P: 03 5881 9932 | M: 0447 778 515 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org
The vast majority of producers in our region (except perhaps for our cousins in the west) are enjoying the ‘triple whammy’ of great seasonal conditions, excellent crop and pasture production and near (and above) record commodity prices.
And while we live in hope this might be the new (or in some cases returning to the old) ‘norm’, it is more likely than not every passing day sees us closer to more challenging times.
During the last dry spell, there was no doubt stock containment areas (SCA) were one of the great success stories. But they weren’t new – many producers, again our western cousins, had been using SCAs as part of their ‘modus operandi’ for quite some time.
Come the last few seasons – many producers have probably put SCAs to the back of their minds – good rainfall, early autumn breaks and relatively mild conditions have all led generally to excellent pasture growing conditions.
Many producers are still recovering – both emotionally and financially – from the recent drought. And while not necessarily front of mind, it might be a good opportunity to think about and invest some of the rewards from the last few years in preparing your livestock operations for times when we have less available feed.
To remind you, an SCA is a carefully selected, fenced section of the property that is set up to periodically hold, feed and water livestock, to protect soil and pasture resources, maintain animal health and condition and reduce demand on labour during adverse times and seasons.
There are a range of benefits these facilities offer, including:
- ready access for feeding, watering, monitoring and handling stock
- containment of weeds brought on to the property with imported feed
- control of livestock when large areas of the farm require fencing (i.e. following a fire or other emergency)
- enabling faster pasture establishment or recovery after drought or fire, or just in challenging seasons
- reduced soil erosion or damage to paddocks during a drought or dry conditions
- providing quarantine areas for introduced stock
- pasture maintenance or improvement due to the ability to rest paddocks and allow pasture to recover
- improvement or maintenance of stock condition – can help to reduce feed and energy wastage, and help to meet weight targets to assist in joining
- close monitoring and management of animal health
- better use of labour and feeding resources (less time spent feeding, and better management of stock nutrition)
- efficient way of supplying quality water to stock.
SCAs are much more than simply an area of your farm that you use during a drought. They can be a versatile management tool that should be considered as part of your overall (livestock) business strategy.
And like any other piece of infrastructure in your farm business, there is a range of things that should be considered, such as size and design, siting, feed and water supply issues, animal welfare (including dust and shade and shelter), drainage, odour and your neighbours, and maintenance. There might also be some planning approvals you require from your local consent authority(s).
Apart from the infrastructure considerations, your animal health and feeding strategies need to be more finely tuned – a ‘she’ll be right approach’ can quickly lead to major problems when you are confining large numbers of livestock in a relatively small area.
Bottom line, however, is that done well, feeding livestock in dedicated, confirmed areas can have significant benefits to livestock producers.
The best advice is to talk to industry experts and locals who have included SCAs into their operations. They will quickly point out the benefits (and pitfalls) and steer you in the right direction.
They are much more than a drought mitigation option – they can provide year-in, year-out benefits to help with your livestock production.
Click on the following link to watch a brief video on how some local producers are effectively utilising SCAs, and to hear some top tips from industry experts. Isn’t now as good a time as any to think about how you are going to better manage your livestock?
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