BUT WHICH STOCK DO YOU SELL AND WHICH DO YOU KEEP?
• which can be finished and sold; • which will be the most valuable when the drought breaks; • which have a good chance of survival; • which do you have the capacity to feed.
Draw up a list of priorities for order of sale, and set deadlines for action. Do not wait until stock lose condition. Priority 1: All unproductive stock, eg, unthrifty, empty, aged and/or broken-mouthed, cull lambs/weaner calves. Priority 2: Aged stock, steers/wethers, maiden ewes/heifers and weaners. Priority 3: Pregnant or calving heifers, and all animals that are difficult to feed on grain. Priority 4: Progressive reduction of breeding stock numbers, leaving a nucleus of proven ewes and cows, 4-6 years old.
• TOSS grain over hay, or feed out after feeding hay – let sheep into an area where you have run a long line of grain along the ground, about 4cm deep and 10cm wide; do this before you let the sheep in or they will tend to run over it and waste it.
• CATTLE need to be fed grain supplements in a feeder as they are less able to eat it off the ground and there is a lot of wastage.
• SHEEP cannot be maintained on grain alone and require pickings from pasture stubble or straw. Saliva produced while eating straw or pasture is rich in bicarbonate, helping to neutralise acid in the rumen. In addition, fibre present in the rumen helps to neutralise acids.
• CONTINUE feeding hay and supplements until new grass growth is over 3cm+. Young stock, in particular, will be at risk from parasites once rain returns and grass starts growing as it will contain large numbers of parasitic eggs. Grazing too soon is a big risk so try to wait until pasture is at least 3cm long, but preferably longer, and be vigilant in checking animals for signs of parasites.