Win­ter cat­tle man­age­ment

Here are the top 10 ways to man­age your cat­tle in win­ter

Farms & Farm Machinery - - Contents -

There are nu­mer­ous strate­gies for man­ag­ing your beef herd through win­ter, but which ones ac­tu­ally work and which are myths?

Meat & Live­stock Aus­tralia (MLA) Bet­terBeef sem­i­nar pre­sented live­stock farm­ers with a range of proven meth­ods to help cow herds thrive in cooler months, when disease can eas­ily dev­as­tate large swathes of stock.

Agriv­etBusi­ness Con­sult­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive Dr Gra­ham

Lean opened the sem­i­nar with a gen­eral dis­cus­sion on the dif­fer­ent types of par­a­sites and dis­eases that can crip­ple your farm if not ad­dressed quickly and in the proper way.

His rec­om­men­da­tions were largely based around know­ing your herd and know­ing your land, prefer­ably down to a sci­en­tific level:

1. PRO­TECT AGAINST IN­TER­NAL PAR­A­SITES

The cost of treat­ment is small, but the po­ten­tial for profit loss can be huge. Rapid weight loss is a strong in­di­ca­tor. The risk of cows un­der two years old de­vel­op­ing worms can be quite high, so they need to be drenched of­ten.

2. EN­SURE YOUR HERD IS GET­TING THE RIGHT NU­TRI­ENTS

There is a higher risk of cows be­ing af­fected by meta­bolic dis­eases fol­low­ing a drought, or in the win­ter months. These are of­ten caused by a lack of ei­ther cal­cium or mag­ne­sium in the blood stream in the an­i­mals. Test­ing your pas­ture for min­eral lev­els and us­ing feed sup­ple­ments, based on which nu­tri­ents the an­i­mal feed is lack­ing, is vi­tal.

3. DON’T PUT YOUR HERD INTO LUSH PAS­TURES SUD­DENLY

This may cause them to suf­fer from ni­trate poi­son­ing; a com­mon ail­ment caused by the in­take of too much ni­trate in the grass. The risk of this in win­ter is high, and if you put hun­gry cat­tle onto a lush pas­ture, the risk is even higher. There have been a few cases in Vic­to­ria al­ready this year. The tried and true method is to feed them plenty of roughage to mod­er­ate their ni­trate in­take and to limit their graz­ing time.

4. DON’T CULL YOUR UN­DER­WEIGHT COWS

Cows that are un­der­weight due to drought will bounce back and catch up if they are given the right care. If you know what you are do­ing, you can ac­tu­ally turn a profit from buy­ing drought af­fected stock and bring­ing them up to a nor­mal weight for their age. Giv­ing un­der­weight stock a chance to bounce back is rec­om­mended.

5. CON­TROL THE MIN­ERAL LEV­ELS OF YOUR PAS­TURE

Some pas­tures are cop­per de­fi­cient, while oth­ers lack cal­cium and so on. But too much cop­per is not good, ei­ther. The use of cop­per fer­tiliser is very ef­fec­tive. The same goes for se­le­nium and cobalt de­fi­cien­cies on your land.

The bot­tom line is you need to know your pas­ture min­eral lev­els and act to sup­ple­ment what­ever is lack­ing in the feed to help your cows put on weight. Agri­cul­ture Vic­to­ria rep­re­sen­ta­tive Fiona Baker dis­cussed the im­por­tance of draw­ing up an ef­fec­tive and ac­cu­rate tac­ti­cal feed bud­get. The ma­jor­ity of her sug­ges­tions re­late to hav­ing a good knowl­edge of your pas­ture growth rates, and do­ing your math­e­mat­i­cal home­work, so that you can es­ti­mate the amount of feed re­quired to help your herd gain weight through the win­ter.

6. DRAW UP A WIN­TER FEED BUD­GET

Will nat­u­ral pas­ture growth be enough to reach the weight gain tar­gets you have for your herd? Ob­vi­ously pas­ture growth rates slow dur­ing win­ter. If you don’t know how much feed your pas­ture pro­duces each day, then you can’t work out if you will have enough feed.

7. KNOW THE DAILY EN­ERGY NEEDS OF YOUR AN­I­MALS

What is the an­i­mal’s en­ergy re­quire­ment go­ing to be dur­ing win­ter? This all de­pends on their cur­rent weight. A sim­ple on­line search will pro­vide farm­ers with ba­sic in­for­ma­tion on the en­ergy needs of cows of dif­fer­ent weights. Once you know this and fig­ure out the en­ergy re­quire­ments of your whole herd, you can fig­ure out if the dry mat­ter per hectare pro­duced on your farm is go­ing to be enough, or if you will need to buy feed – so that your an­i­mals will reach the tar­get weight you have set for them by the end of win­ter.

8. FEED THEM HAY IN AU­TUMN

Pas­ture growth rates in au­tumn are about dou­ble those of win­ter. So for each kilo­gram of hay fed in au­tumn com­pared to that be­ing fed in win­ter, you should get about dou­ble the amount of pas­ture growth. It can be a good idea to feed your herd hay in au­tumn to al­low your pas­ture to grow be­fore the big freeze (and slow pas­ture growth) sets in.

9. CON­SIDER SELL­ING SOME STOCK

If you think your pas­ture growth will not pro­duce enough feed for your mob, con­sider re­duc­ing your stock num­bers by sell­ing some off. Sell­ing a small num­ber of cows can some­times have a big im­pact on an­i­mal weight-gain rates over win­ter.

10. UREA CAN BE YOUR BEST FRIEND

You have a lot of op­tions when it comes to fill­ing the feed gap. Some farm­ers con­sider ap­ply­ing Urea to their pas­tures to be too ex­pen­sive and see feed­ing hay as a cheaper al­ter­na­tive. But it all comes down to the amount of en­ergy an­i­mals are get­ting from the feed. Al­though hay seems cheaper at face value, the pas­ture growth that can be achieved by ap­ply­ing Urea can be con­sid­er­able, re­sult­ing in bet­ter weight gain re­sults than you might get from sim­ply sup­ple­ment­ing their pas­ture feed with hay.

MLA pro­vides re­search for the Aus­tralian red meat and live­stock in­dus­try.

“Sell­ing a small num­ber of cows can some­times have a big im­pact on an­i­mal weight-gain rates over win­ter”

Top and above: Win­ter is here and if you want your cat­tle herd to not only sur­vive, but also thrive, you’d bet­ter have a good stock and pas­ture man­age­ment plan in place

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