The risks of weeds in hay

Pro­tect­ing pre­cious pad­docks

Warwick Daily News - South West Queensland Rural Weekly - - News - PAUL MCIN­TOSH

THE dry weather has cer­tainly sky-rock­eted costs to feed your live­stock, and ground sur­face wa­ter sup­plies are mostly gone or are be­ing piped from miles away to pad­dock wa­ter­ing points.

Any on-farm re­serves of hay or grain are very short or gone al­to­gether by now as we all look to sur­vive un­til sig­nif­i­cant rain ar­rives.

Un­for­tu­nately, weather re­ports are not promis­ing so un­pre­dictable sum­mer storms may be our best rain op­por­tu­ni­ties for the fu­ture.

And there will be a fu­ture, as there has been in past times after cruel drought con­di­tions. In the mean­time, we all just look to sur­vive across the agri­cul­tural sec­tor.

I had a re­port re­cently that sev­eral cat­tle had per­ished after eat­ing con­tam­i­nated or mouldy hay. That is fairly sad and very dif­fi­cult to guard against in these des­per­ate feed-short­age times where any fod­der with wrap or strings around it is very needed and wel­come by live­stock own­ers.

Un­for­tu­nately, the hay may also con­tain weed seeds which may not be detri­men­tal to your live­stock health but you cer­tainly would not wish them in your good graz­ing coun­try or cul­ti­va­tion blocks.

With my fam­ily back­ground in hay pro­duc­tion, my fa­ther Alec was taught to be cau­tious, as I was, with any baled hay de­vel­op­ing heat, mouldi­ness or pow­der­i­ness deep in­side the bale.

Too much mois­ture at bal­ing time and then the bal­ing ac­tion of com­pres­sion with the heat gen­er­ated can lead to var­i­ous pow­dery tox­ins form­ing. Some of these tox­ins are harm­less and oth­ers to hun­gry live­stock are deadly or can give per­ma­nent set­back in grow­ing and de­vel­op­ment.

Not only can tox­ins form from poor cur­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the fod­der con­cerned, this des­per­ately needed fod­der may also con­tain toxic plants. Once again, hun­gry live­stock may gorge them­selves on this part of the hay bale and fa­tal­i­ties can en­sue.

My own ex­pe­ri­ence with de­clared weeds was with a plant called ap­ple of sodom, which is one of the solanaceae fam­ily, of which plants like night­shade and po­ta­toes are also part of.

Many years ago in the south Queens­land area, this cu­ri­ous-look­ing plant with those stand­out pur­ple five-point flow­ers and spikes down the leaf cen­tre grabbed me, lit­er­ally, while I was clos­ing a farmer’s front pad­dock wire gate.

It was on the road­side area and I did not get too ex­cited as I would have if it had been parthe­nium, how­ever I did iden­tify it and dis­cov­ered it was a south­ern plant mostly and was a de­clared weed in many south­ern states, in­clud­ing WA.

Orig­i­nat­ing from the African na­tions, it was orig­i­nally as­sumed to have some medic­i­nal pur­pose, which later proved to be false.

How it got in Western Downs coun­try was in­ter­est­ing and I be­lieve it came there by some tillage ma­chin­ery from South Aus­tralia be­ing un­loaded in that road­side area years be­fore. It never seem to es­cape that iso­lated bit of coun­try even though it seeded very well.

Of course in this day and age, many of us are con­cerned about her­bi­cide re­sis­tance. We cer­tainly have enough of our own weed prob­lems like feath­er­top rhodes and sowthis­tle, plus many oth­ers, which have de­vel­oped her­bi­cide re­sis­tance to dif­fer­ent modes of ac­tion.

We cer­tainly do not want to im­port a plant or seeds of an­nual rye­grass with its wide suite of her­bi­cide mode of ac­tion re­sis­tance lev­els.

So what to do in these hard times with fod­der hay that may or may not have trou­ble­some weed seed in them?

Well, one way is feed­ing in a con­trol­lable lo­ca­tion. By con­trol­lable I mean that if some­thing nasty grows there in a few months’ or years’ time, you can take ac­tion to erad­i­cate that weed be­fore seed­ing takes place and spreads else­where on your prop­erty, or your neigh­bour’s.

Yes, I do re­alise that live­stock con­sum­ing weed seeds may or may not spread vi­able weed seed all over your coun­try, how­ever that is a big­ger prob­lem that you need to be vig­i­lant about in the fu­ture.

Some preven­tion tac­tics would be to sim­ply ask where the hay is orig­i­nat­ing from and even con­tact the sup­plier to chat about pos­si­ble plants that are in the hay or grain.

Ven­dor dec­la­ra­tions are handy and can cer­tainly bring home to the seller or pro­ducer that they have a duty of care to be up­front with their dec­la­ra­tion.

While we have biose­cu­rity laws in Queens­land – as do other states – pre­vent­ing con­tam­i­nated ma­te­rial con­tain­ing pests and weed seeds spread­ing across the na­tion, things like fire ants are a lo­calised Queens­land prob­lem and you cer­tainly do not want to im­port them to your prop­erty in hay bales.

So be vig­i­lant in these tough times and a sim­ple re­quest from fod­der sup­pli­ers may pre­vent trou­ble in fu­ture wet­ter times.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

TOUGH TIMES: Paul McIn­tosh warns of the risks of weeds and weed seeds in fod­der hay.

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