Producers advised to plan for livestock feeding

There is currently a deficit in quality feed available that is required to maintain animal production across North West NSW. Local Land Services have been collecting feed tests to assess the quality of pastures in the region. The results suggest that even dry animals currently require supplementation if they don’t have access to sufficient green feed sources. Dry grasses are of low quality and have digestibility of less than 50% limiting the amount of this material they can digest and energy that is available for production. Specifically, grasses are measuring less than 6 megajoules of metabolizable energy per kg of dry matter (MJ ME/kg DM). From this feed a dry cow can consume approximately 50 MJ ME/day of the required 60 MJ ME/day. While a dry sheep will receive 6.5MJ ME/day of the required 8 MJ ME/day for maintenance. Pregnant and lactating animals have higher requirements and will need to be supplemented accordingly.

A protein supplement such as loose lick and fortified molasses can assist animals with digesting these grasses and being able to eat more of this type of feed, but due to its current low quality the energy in this additional intake is not enough to provide the additional energy required to meet animal’s requirements.

Making decisions about supplementary feeding early and being prepared is the best way to limit the burden of ongoing dry conditions should they continue.

Claudia Bryant, Local Land Services Livestock Officer said that the decision to supplementary feed should not be made lightly with grain and hay prices on the rise and livestock market prices fluctuating.

“It is not cost effective or ethical to let animals lose weight in hope of rain or for the market to change. The market is unpredictable, and producers should prepare and plan for the possibility of multiple scenarios occurring, including that the season or market does not change”, she said.

“Selling animals that are not cost effective to feed is a good way to free up resources for the profitable animals and protect your feed reserves”, said Ms Bryant.

If the decision is made to feed, it should be assessed to be a financially viable decision with a clear end point or a set trigger date that can reduce the impact of losses. It is also important to feed with a purpose such as maintenance of breeding stock or production feeding young stock when considering if feeding is a viable option. With all these factors at play it is essential for producers to plan ahead and consider all options.

To assist, Local Land Services are offering subsidised feed tests for pasture and feed quality and are available to assist with advice on livestock and pasture management.

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