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    Landcare News Items

    Roughage is crucial – even though it’s hard to source right now

    Feeding hay to cattle320by Brett Littler (Central Tablelands LLS Livestock Officer), Jason Siddell (Northern Tablelands LLS Livestock Officer) and Andrew Biddle (Northern Tablelands LLS District Vet)

    Many experienced farmers have been reviewing their feed budgets in this really dry time. Quantity of feed is obviously paramount at all times but particularly for pregnant or lactating livestock. Quality feed becomes even more important during drought but we understand it is getting harder and more expensive to source.

    Don’t assume the quality of the fodder – it’s much easier to make an informed decision if you have the numbers in front of you, so get a feed test.

    Across the Northern Tablelands the standing haystacks of dry mature pasture which usually dominate the landscape have been decimated by lack of rainfall and high temperatures, reducing pasture growth rates and winter pasture reserves. In many areas of the Northern Tablelands the dry standing feed is now completely gone and water levels are low.

    Don’t forget how important roughage is to maintaining a healthy rumen. Ruminant animals need roughage so that microbes can breakdown and make available the nutrients provided by other supplementary feed sources like cottonseed, urea, pellets, protein meals, grain etc.

    Common sources of roughage include crop stubble, pasture hay and legume hays however these are hard to find. Some less common roughage options may include rice straw, almond hulls, cottonseed hulls and silage. It is important to know the nutritional value of the roughage you source because it will determine the quality and quantity of other supplements that are required to create a suitable ration.

    Things to consider when sourcing roughage:
    • Hay may contain weeds that can be transported to your farm and then spread by the animals being fed.
    • Freight on hay increases per tonne if the hay is light and bulky. Try to negotiate transport per tonne not per bale.
    • When transporting or feeding silage know the Dry Matter percentage as a lot of the weight is water, which has no nutritional value.
    • If feeding silage consider vaccination for botulism prior to feeding it.
    • Get a commodity vendor declaration
    • Ask for a feed test, so that you know what you are purchasing.

    Livestock management isn’t always easy even at the best of times. In times of drought, when the pressure is on, don’t hesitate to seek independent advice or contact your Local Land Services livestock expert. Even if it is just to bounce ideas off each other, having the conversation with someone off farm can make a big difference in caring for your livestock.

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