Summer stocktake and pasture budget
13 January 2016
By Scott Ison, District Veterinarian
With the festive season come and gone, it's time to look at our livestock again and plan for 2016. Many of us will have our own resolutions for diet and weight, and we should do the same for our cattle and sheep. It's a good time to look at how much feed you have, the livestock you are currently running and what you expect to carry through autumn and winter.
Many parts of the region may have benefited from some summer rain but not everyone is in the same situation.
An early finish to spring and a hot to start to summer has left many pastures a bit drier and thinner than normal. This pasture will not meet the nutrient requirements of some livestock classes, and recent rain will negatively affect dry feed quality. It is important to consider your stock’s requirements and do feed tests to remove some guess work.
For spring calving beef producers, it might be an opportunity to wean calves early to conserve cow condition and fodder, and supplement the calves with something that will make them grow. Early weaning can be a tricky practice if you haven't done it before, so seek professional advice to maximise results and reduce potential disasters.
Autumn calvers should keep a close eye on cow condition coming into the last trimester, supplementing where required to maintain optimal condition score at calving. Getting cows in the right condition at calving will improve calf health and give cows the best chance of getting back in calf.
Many sheep producers will be lucky enough to have stubbles available to fill the summer feed gap. In frosted or low-yielding crops, you can expect better nutrition from the stubble than high-yielding crops.
Summer annual weeds in stubbles provide great nutrition and will have kicked on with recent rain, but be aware of poisonings. Plants such as hairy panic and heliotrope can cause photosensitisation and copper toxicity.
Worm burdens should be monitored closely with a faecal egg count every 4-6 weeks. In recent years, traditional single summer drenching has often failed due to summer rain. Barber’s pole has caused serious headaches, especially with multiple drench resistance becoming more common.
For more livestock nutrition and health advice, call Murray Local Land Services on Deniliquin: 03 5881 1055 or Albury 02 6051 2200.
Scott Ison is a District Vet with Murray Local Land Services. He has particular interest in Production Animal Health and has done post-graduate study in Ruminant Nutrition.