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Wednesday, 29 October 2008 19:07

What do you do with your livestock when pasture runs out?

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Many farmers are running out of pasture for their sheep and cattle and they are wondering what to do about it, because there’s not a lot of supplementary feed around.

  • In many areas, pasture has been slow to come away this year because of unusually cold temperatures in October and November.
  • In parts of the east, pasture growth has slowed because it’s too dry.
  • Last winter’s stores of feed like hay, silage and concentrates have just about gone.
  • The lack of an early feed flush means supplementary feed in the form of hay and silage for next year could be scarce.
  • The drought in Australia means that next year imported grain will certainly be scarce and very expensive.
Buy in feed or offload stock
  • If you are unfortunate enough to be short of feed already, you really have only two options.
  • Buy in feed, lease extra grazing or sell stock.
  • Letting your stock go hungry is not an option, because all animal owners have a legal and moral obligation to feed their stock properly, whether the grass is growing or not.
Supplementary feed
  • There is still some supplementary feed available in most areas, although it’s expensive.
  • It might be worth digging deep into your pockets if necessary to keep your stock going.
  • You could at least spend money on your breeding stock to keep them in good condition. They are your farm’s future.
  • If you offer grain or concentrate feed, introduce it to the diet in small amounts to start with to allow the digestive system time to adapt.
  • Body condition scoring can be used to identify and separate thinner stock for preferential feeding. When there is competition for feed, bigger bolder animals tend to get more than their fair share. Sorting stock into mobs according to their body condition can help ensure that they all get an adequate share.
Offload stock - lease grazing or sell stock
  • You could consider offloading stock by leasing extra grazing if you can find a farmer lucky enough to have feed to spare.
  • Otherwise you will have to sell, starting with the non-essential animals.
  • Sell any wethers and empty ewes, and maybe some early weaned lambs, and older ewes.
  • Shop around for quotes to make sure you get the best price and avoid being exploited because of a feed crisis.
Make your decision soon
  • The decision whether to sell stock, lease extra grazing or buy in feed is best made sooner rather than later. If you wait, the animals’ body condition may have dropped and your returns will be even lower.
     
Dr Marjorie Orr, lifestyle farmer and veterinarian (retired)

Dr Marjorie Orr - veterinarian and lifestyle farmer. Dr Orr is a recognised authority on animal welfare in New Zealand and has served on several government committees, especially those concerned with writing codes of welfare for sheep and dogs. Her service to animal health and welfare has also been recognised by awards from the NZ Veterinary Association and MAF. She is also a strong SPCA supporter.

Website: www.lifestyleblock.co.nz/images/imgDrMarjorieOrr.jpg