Are you feeding enough?
14 August 2018
With a dry winter ending and a dry spring forecast it is crucial those with livestock have a plan. Many animals across the South East region will currently be calving and lambing. If you are feeding them, it is important to check that you are feeding them enough.
Early lactating animals require significantly more feed than dry animals. The need for energy is particularly high, you might be putting out lots of hay, but are you feeding enough energy?
“There is a doubling and even tripling of requirements for energy in late pregnancy and lactation” said Local Land Services Agriculture Advisor Helen Smith.
“You need to consider the energy concentration of your feed. This information may be provided or you can do a test. Then calculate the ‘as-fed’ amount.”
A recommended ration of quality pellets and hay to a 550kg lactating cow is 5.5kg pellet + 5.5kg hay per cow per day. For a ewe 1.4kg pellet + 0.3kg hay will meet needs of a typical sized animal. Grain or pellets must be introduced carefully, gradually building to the full amount over 1-2 weeks.
Feeding enough energy is important for animals to lactate well, so their young survive and thrive. Preventing excessive weight loss is critical for cow fertility; an important consideration when bulls are put out later this year.
If feed is being put out every second or third day multiply the daily requirement accordingly. Remember some will also be wasted by spilling and manure.
NSW Department of Primary Industries has a drought feed calculator to do these calculations for you. The free app can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play for mobile and tablet devices.
“Feeding dry paddock feed or hay only will not be sufficient to maintain lactating animals: it is low in energy and they will struggle to eat enough to meet the energy requirement.
“Grain may even be more cost effective on a dollar per megajoule (energy) basis, especially when hay is expensive and hard to source. Feeding some grain in place of hay will allow hay reserves to last longer.”
Livestock not being provided enough energy lose weight. Long term this is a serious welfare issue. Underfeeding in late pregnancy and lactation also puts animals at risk of disorders where the sudden use of body fat overwhelms the system, making animals very sick and leading to rapid death.
Local Land Services offices across the South East can be contacted for information on livestock feeding. Local livestock workshops are also planned for late August and September.