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Small blocks need to prepare for a tight winter

No matter the size of your property, the short days of winter are a critical time to safeguard both your pastures and livestock for the productive time of spring.

With poor growing conditions around the country rationing and feeding according to need is likely to be more important to lifestylers with grazing livestock this winter and spring than in recent years. Pastures that may have been over-grazed during the summer will take time to recover and spring growth will be further compromised if over-grazed or damaged through the winter. On small blocks where winter forage crops are less practical, a quality compound feed is a simple and highly effective solution if the quality or quantity of feed on offer is insufficient for the class of stock being fed.

Whilst the concerns of the lifestyle farmer are typically less than those of the commercial farmer, simply because they have less mouths to feed, there is still a need to watch costs and safeguard animal welfare. The confirmation of drought status in many parts of New Zealand will inevitably see conserved forage trucked into drier regions and reduce the available stock – putting pressure on wrapped small-bale products. Often a lack of handling equipment does limit the feed options for the smaller block and a slow usage rate increases the risk of spoilage of commercial sized fermented forages (silage and baleage).

The best-quality forage should be reserved for the highest producing stock – especially pregnant animals close to parturition, lactating animals and R1 cattle. Condition scoring is a valuable skill as some dry stock and pets might benefit from carrying a few less kilograms, or it can be beneficial to identify stock that need to put on weight.

Maintenance requirements increase when stock are cold but wet and windy conditions have an even bigger effect on animals, as more feed is needed to keep their body condition. Whether it is strategically planted hedges or buildings that can be fixed or mobile, shelter is good for budgets and animal welfare. Shelter may come from strategically planted hedges or buildings which can be fixed or mobile.

Ruminants and camelids need long fibre in their diet to support rumination which helps fibre digestion. Conserved forages can make up a high percentage of the diet if pasture is limited but even the best quality tends to be lacking in energy and protein for young stock and females 3–4 weeks off parturition or lactating. Grain-based compound feeds are a good way to balance diets containing conserved forages because they are energy-dense and digestible (compared to conserved forages). Compound feed stores well and is concentrated so can be a good emergency store against an adverse weather event but be careful not to increase feeding rates too quickly. Generally, the higher the level of production required the higher the quality of the supplement required to balance the diet. Avoid the temptation to over-graze new growth in the spring so that recovery post-grazing will be stronger.

NRM has one of the most comprehensive range of compound feeds available for ruminants – to ensure the optimum feed can be fed whatever the class of stock or forage available.

For more information contact your NRM Nutrition Specialist or the friendly team at your local Farmlands store.

Article supplied by Dr. Rob Derrick,
NRM Lead Nutritionist.