NZ Lifestyle Block
DANIELLE’S TOP 3 PIECES OF ADVICE FOR BLOCK OWNERS
WHILE HER vet work is mainly on large dairy farms, Danielle says she does work with block owners, and one particularly memorable story made it into the book.
I drove for an hour and a quarter one Saturday afternoon to see a dribbling 700kg steer on a lifestyle block without a single stock-proof fence. We spent an hour trying (fruitlessly) to encourage the steer to enter and then remain in a yard made of two pallets and a broken gate, while the steer’s owners said plaintively, ‘Why don’t you have a dart gun or something?’”
Have a race for securing stock
For the record, vets don't carry dart guns. “But they really did think I'd have a dart gun.”
Even if you have a few animals, a basic race is critical.
“Head bails and stuff are all fancy optional extras, but as long as you can get an animal in a race, even a big grumpy cow can be sedated. But you can't do anything safely unless it's in a race where it can't turn around. If you've got sheep, you've got to have a pen to catch them, hold them, to shear and drench them.”
Use the black plastic rubbish bag method to work out feed needs
Danielle uses a simple method to help those new to farm life to understand the feed needs of livestock.
There's a general rule of thumb that applies to every grazing animal: they require 2% of their body weight in dry matter (DM) daily to maintain their current weight. Double it if they're feeding a baby, and those feeding triplets will need even more.
However, Danielle says the jargon that long-time farmers use is intimidating and hard to understand if you're a beginner.
“It's not made easy
(for block owners) – if
"NO VET IN THE WORLD HAS EVER MINDED IF SOMEONE RINGS (FOR ADVICE)."
they don’t know, they tend to just get glared at and (farmers) think they should know it which isn’t very helpful.”
That’s why she explains it in terms of black rubbish bags.
“One kilo of dry matter is one big black plastic rubbish bag stuffed full of grass.
"For a fat pet sheep that hasn’t got lambs, it needs the equivalent of one big black plastic rubbish bag stuffed with grass every day. If you went out into its paddock with a little pair of scissors, and you could only collect enough grass to fill an ice cream container, you’d be starving that sheep.
“You could look at a calf and say ok, you weigh about 200kg – 2% of 200kg is 4kg. Could I pick four black plastic sacks of grass for that calf every day out of the paddock it’s living in? If so, great; if not, you need to take action."
Call the vet when you first suspect a problem
When an animal starts acting differently, even in a small way, it’s often a sign that something is wrong. It’s always easier (and much cheaper) to get help at that point, but people often wait too long.
A phone call to a vet is free.
“I think as soon as you’re wondering if there’s something wrong, that’s a good point for the phone call,” says Danielle. “People feel embarrassed about asking for help, but no vet in the world has ever minded if someone rings and says, ‘hey, is this a problem?,’ and you say ‘oh no, it’s just on heat, don’t worry about that.’
"Any vet would be delighted to get that phone call.”
PS. Her pet peeve – tethered goats. Don’t tether goats.