Livestock Nutrition Through Winter

The major flood event in February/March and ongoing wet conditions are posing a significant feed supply issue for livestock producers. North Coast Local Land Services Sustainable Agriculture team is offering advice to livestock producers to help manage this serious issue.

Even in good years on the North Coast, there is a period when pasture quality does not meet livestock energy requirements through winter. The length of this period depends predominantly on seasonal conditions and stocking rates and is commonly known as the ‘winter feed gap’.

Julie Dart, Senior Land Services Officer – Sustainable Agriculture, said “During winter it is important that landholders consider nutritional requirements such as energy, protein and fibre and this is even more important now that we have been experiencing such wet conditions.

In winter, stock use more energy to keep warm and maintain growth. Young and lactating stock have the highest nutritional needs.

Summer grasses grow very slowly and old stemmy growth is high in fibre, which lowers nutritional quality and limits intake. Livestock quickly lose condition when energy requirements are not met.

Ms Dart continued, “Supplementary feeding is an effective means of filling feed gaps, where planting winter crops is not possible.

“Alternatively, stock numbers can be reduced by agistment on better pastures or sale.

“Hay, silage, grain and pellets are suitable supplements but it’s important to buy good quality feeds to continue production and weight gain.

“Feed test your purchases to determine quality and to determine the amounts to be fed out as quality can’t be reliably estimated by look and feel.”

Feed testing support is available if required from North Coast Local Land Services. Feed testing allows farmers to better understand the suitability of their feed for maintenance, production, pregnant or lactating animals as well as to determine if supplementation is needed to achieve intended livestock targets. Contact the team to discuss your needs by calling 1300 795 299.

In these tougher conditions, feed budgeting is an essential tool to help you in making timely livestock feed management decisions.

Cattle producers should calculate feed requirements through to October and be certain feed can be accessed through this period. Other factors to consider include:

  • Infrastructure - do you have the right storage and equipment for feeding out silage or grains? Purchasing in bulk or in large bales is usually cheaper per tonne of dry matter.
  • Minimise waste in the paddock by using hay feeders and troughs. Provide adequate clean water.
  • Prevent feeding areas becoming boggy by feeding on harder surfaces, frequent moving of feeding infrastructure, or temporary solutions such as road base mounds or geohex matting.
  • Consider your different classes of stock and feed them in mobs, as they have different energy and protein requirements.
  • Introduce new feeds gradually into the diet to reduce digestive upsets, especially for grains.
  • Pick a few animals in the mob to weigh or regularly check and record their body condition scores to make sure you are on track.
  • Feed budgets for growing stock are adjusted monthly to account for liveweight gains.
  • Be prepared to adjust your plans.
  • Seek advice if you need it.

Ms Dart continued, “With the wet conditions, it’s also important to monitor overall paddock condition and ensure that there is enough area for stock to be able to sit down and rest. If not, look to provide access to an area where they can, but if this is completely impossible then seriously consider agistment or sale.”

Media contact: Mindy Greenwood, Communications Officer – Flood Recovery and North Coast, 0405 352 320

Photo caption: With a shortage of feed due to the ongoing wet conditions, the winter feed gap is a critical issue for livestock producers.

Angus cattle on an eroded slope

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