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Feeding cows and calves around Braidwood this winter

This past year has been unique with good rainfall early in the year providing lots of feed over summer followed by below-average rainfall in April and May and heavy rains in June. These conditions have resulted in many paddocks with lots of dead bulky feed left over from the summer with very little green feed that is only now just starting to come through.

This type of feed in the paddock means that many cattle will have access to sufficient quantities of feed, however with the low percentage of green feed per mouthful energy and protein are very likely to be lacking.  If a supplement isn’t provided the end result could be significant weight loss in the cows, reduced milk supply during lactation and increased risk of cows not getting back in calf.

One of the safest and most cost effective ways to get energy and protein into the diet is by feeding one of the various ethanol by-products, which includes dried distillers grain (DDG) and ethanol syrup.  There is very little grain poisoning risk when feeding these high energy products, because starch is removed during the fermentation process.

Feed DDG 2-3 times per week at a rate of 2-3 kg/head/day where cows have access to a bulk of dead pasture.  Providing cattle with a loose lick of magnesium oxide (e.g. Causmag®), lime and salt (1:1:1 ratio) is also strongly recommended to prevent grass tetany.  The daily requirement for Causmag® in prevention of grass tetany is 60 g/head/day and protection from grass tetany takes 2-3 days from time of feeding.  Properties that have had issues with grass tetany in previous years are at risk of having problems with this condition year over year. Cows in the first 6-8 weeks of lactation are most prone to the disorder.

One of the disadvantages of DDG is it tends to stick to the inside of silos.  As such, DDG is often put in dumps in sheds.  Another option is to feed ethanol syrup treated with magnesium oxide (20 kg bag of Causmag added to 1000 L of syrup).  Syrup can be fed in tubs at a rate of
4-5 L/head/day. Provide cows with a loose lick of lime and salt (1:1 ratio) when using the syrup. A pelletised version of the syrup is also now available, making handling and storage easier.

Other supplementary feed options include cereal grain with lupins (3-4 kg/head/day), lucerne or clover hay (4-5 kg/head/day) and silage (16-20 kg/head/day). Cereal grains should always be introduced slowly into the diet to prevent acidosis.


Media contacts: Dr Kate Sawford, District Veterinarian (0427 422 530 or 02 4842 2594), Matthew Lieschke, Senior Land Services Officer, Livestock (02 4824 1913 or 0428 271 127)