CAT­TLE

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Feature -

YOUNG CAT­TLE such as calves and ris­ing year­lings are the main con­cern over win­ter when pas­ture is short. If they are not kept grow­ing to reach their tar­get weights, they will be per­ma­nently stunted with lower life­time pro­duc­tion.

What they need is the best of sup­ple­men­tary feed with a growth tar­get of at least 0.5kg/day. If they stop grow­ing, they then need ex­tra feed and ex­tra time to catch up, which they may never do.

Ma­ture beef cows are less of a worry as they gen­er­ally main­tain their body con­di­tion, but any cows that be­came skinny when suckling calves will need ex­tra feed to build up body con­di­tion, and this means you will need good silage rather than hay.

It takes 180kg of Dry Mat­ter to re­place one con­di­tion score, on top of what the cow needs for main­te­nance each day. That is a lot of wet feed to get them into calv­ing at a body con­di­tion score 5 (with rounded hips) and it will take quite a few weeks to achieve it. Skinny preg­nant cows have poor calves, are slow to cy­cle to get preg­nant again soon af­ter calv­ing, and will calve later each year.

The main con­cern with big cat­tle is to avoid pug­ging wet pad­docks and it’s im­por­tant to look at build­ing a stand­off pad to pro­tect soils.

All cat­tle will have wa­tery fae­ces on low Dry Mat­ter pas­ture, and feed­ing hay will help ma­ture cows to dry up – they don’t need worm drench­ing. Young stock will scour dur­ing win­ter for many rea­sons too, the main one be­ing green lush pas­ture. But if their scour­ing leads to weight loss, they may have what’s called ‘au­tumn ill thrift’. This has many causes in­clud­ing min­eral de­fi­cien­cies, sal­mo­nella and yersin­io­sis, and not in­ter­nal par­a­sites. Vet­eri­nary help is es­sen­tial to sort this out.

Drench-re­sis­tant worms are in­creas­ing in cat­tle as well as sheep and goats and ac­tions need to be based on Fae­cal Egg Counts. En­dec­to­cides (for in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal par­a­sites) are eas­i­est to ap­ply as pour-ons if you don’t have good cat­tle han­dling fa­cil­i­ties, and don’t want to risk get­ting in­jured, but they have been shown to be less ef­fec­tive at killing worms. They are also caus­ing more drench re­sis­tance (es­pe­cially in Coope­ria species) than oral drenches.

Check for lice on young stock if they are not thriv­ing as this is also a win­ter prob­lem. Again, con­sult your vet about suit­able prod­ucts as lice are also de­vel­op­ing re­sis­tance to chem­i­cals.

Fa­cial eczema should have gone, but watch for its af­ter­ef­fects. Long-term zinc treat­ment can strip the cop­per re­serves from the liver, so cop­per sup­ple­men­ta­tion may be needed. Check with your vet.

Their liv­ers may also have been dam­aged by the FE tox­ins, which can re­sult in milk fever when stress comes on at calv­ing. Liver dam­age can be checked by a GGT en­zyme blood test. Vets can do min­eral pro­files from a liver biopsy on a live an­i­mal, or ar­range for liver sam­ples to be col­lected at the meat works if any cull stock are killed. The liver acts like a bat­tery and needs to be charged with min­er­als over a long pe­riod dur­ing win­ter so an­i­mals are ready for spring.

If you farm in an area where cat­tle ticks have be­come es­tab­lished, and stock show sudden signs of weak­ness, stop eat­ing and are anaemic, con­sult your vet to test for the thei­le­ria par­a­site which is spread­ing rapidly south via cat­tle ticks in the North Is­land. With stock move­ment to other ar­eas, ticks will spread it fur­ther afield. In­fected ticks can also be spread by goats, horses, do­mes­tic pets, rab­bits and hares.

Gorse is an on­go­ing fact of life on our farm. It has man­aged to get into ev­ery corner of this coun­try and we know that all our con­trol work is only that; we’ll never achieve erad­i­ca­tion.

If a sum­mer passes with­out spray­ing, there will be gorse ev­ery­where again. Leave it two years and it starts block­ing out large por­tions of pas­ture, with bushes big enough to hide adult cat­tle.

Some fact­sheets pro­claim that gorse grows 15–30cm per year but it well ex­ceeds that in the Far North. In its early stages, gorse seems to ex­plode out of the ground so a hill­side with a dark green haze – in­di­cat­ing the pres­ence of some small plants – will be cov­ered by bushes more than a me­tre tall, in all their ag­gres­sive prick­li­ness, within a year.

Its sudden ap­pear­ance is partly il­lu­sory. When it's small, it can grow through grass un­seen, so it may not be un­til its sec­ond year of growth that we no­tice the usu­ally sin­gle-stemmed, knee-high plants. But from that stage it is ca­pa­ble of enor­mous spurts of growth and that’s why it’s such

| a prob­lem here.

Gorse’s ben­e­fits were the rea­son for its de­lib­er­ate and con­tin­ued in­tro­duc­tion to New Zealand in the early years of Pakeha set­tle­ment. On a trip to South­land a few years ago, I was de­lighted to see a gorse hedge do­ing what gorse was pri­mar­ily brought here to do. It’s also a very good food for bees when cov­ered in its beau­ti­ful flow­ers.

But our cli­mate is much kinder to gorse than its na­tive habi­tat in the North­ern Hemi­sphere where it was used for ef­fec­tive hedg­ing and an­i­mal con­trol. It quickly gal­loped across the New Zealand land­scape, in­fest­ing any open space which wasn’t ac­tively man­aged by hu­mankind. Not un­der­stand­ing how well it would spread, it was also used for ero­sion con­trol and for an­i­mal feed in its early stages, mean­ing it was de­lib­er­ately broad­cast across large ar­eas, ad­vanc­ing its in­va­sion into more re­mote lo­ca­tions.

Things could be worse. For­tu­nately

on this farm there were sub­si­dies avail­able for weed con­trol which helped with the cost of fight­ing gorse, al­though com­pared with to­day’s prices it was still ter­ri­bly ex­pen­sive. Dur­ing the years be­tween the re­moval of all the sub­si­dies in the mid-1980s and the ex­piry of the patents on the most ef­fec­tive chem­i­cal con­trol agents, spray­ing gorse was of­ten pro­hib­i­tively ex­pen­sive, es­pe­cially when farm pro­duce prices re­mained stub­bornly low.

To­day, spray for gorse is cheap and with land prices so high, you don’t want to sac­ri­fice pas­ture to it.

Some sprays will kill grass as well as gorse, so keep­ing your gorse un­der con­trol and killing it early in its life means you’ll lose much less grass over time than if you let it get away.

Spray­ing is a haz­ardous job be­cause of the nature of the chem­i­cals used. For­tu­nately it may now be slightly less risky than it used to be as per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment has im­proved in ef­fec­tive­ness and com­fort and 2,4,5-T is no longer the only op­tion for con­trol.

But for many peo­ple ex­po­sure to the chem­i­cals in­volved makes it a job you leave to some­one else. I’m for­tu­nate in hav­ing a ro­bust part­ner who ap­pears (so far) to have been un­af­fected by years of ca­sual ex­po­sure to chem­i­cal agents used in con­ven­tional farm­ing prac­tice. While care was al­ways taken, ev­ery Kiwi farmer of his age had a fairly re­laxed at­ti­tude to chem­i­cal use on weeds, sheep and cat­tle. Those who weren’t so ro­bust have prob­a­bly suc­cumbed by now. Our aware­ness of the long-term, in­vis­i­ble (for a while) ef­fects of chem­i­cal ex­po­sure is now much more in­formed and it’s not some­thing you want to risk if you don’t have the right gear for the job.

Gorse can be killed in many ways. The best op­tion for your block will be de­ter­mined by the amount of land you have to man­age and the ex­tent of the gorse in­fes­ta­tion you face, and your per­sonal phi­los­o­phy.

There are var­i­ous her­bi­cides avail­able, usu­ally sprayed onto the plants wher­ever they stand, but most can also be used in a con­cen­trated form for brush­ing onto cut stumps if your prob­lem is small.

Spray­ing gorse usu­ally ne­ces­si­tates the ad­di­tion of chem­i­cal pen­e­trants be­cause of the tough nature of the fo­liage. If you’re spray­ing sig­nif­i­cant ar­eas, ad­di­tion of a dye can also be very use­ful so you know where you’ve been.

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