Pastures change from being in a vegetative (growing) state in spring, to increasing in maturity and entering a reproductive phase in summer. This brings a decrease in plant nutrients (energy and protein) and decreased digestibility of pasture.
Cattle and sheep get hit with a double whammy as plants mature. Digestibility drops, which decreases both the energy available to the animal and dry matter intake potential. Pastures that once supported growth and milk production, can now only support maintenance and minimal production levels. Further compounding things is a reduction in pasture growth rates and the amount of dry matter available due to higher environmental temperatures and lower soil moisture. Dealing with the challenges of summer are becoming equally as important as preparing for the winter in many regions but there are many things the motivated lifestyler can do to prepare.
Permanent fencing is great for pasture management and grouping mobs of animals according to their needs. Shade from trees, shelter belts or structures which allow good air flow can help stock cope with heat stress. Ruminants need long fibre to ruminate, so a good hay shed can allow storage of hay purchased off the paddock or from contractors.
Check the body condition score of stock regularly to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Targeted supplementary feeding can help improve health outcomes and what an animal can produce. Could lambs be weaned to reduce pressure on ewes? There is little benefit in dry stock either getting overfat or losing too much weight. Fat ewes are less likely to respond to flushing come mating time. If the dry spell lasts through mating, NRM Pre-Tup Nuts can help ewes to gain condition during this critical time and can help growing lambs reach weight targets. High protein calf pellets such as NRM GrowUp 16 percent or even 20 percent are a good complement to mature grazing or hay for growing calves and yearlings. Consider destocking early – perhaps selling ewe lambs for breeding or processing early lambs.
Prioritise the best pastures for growing or lactating stock.
Grazing low covers increases animal exposure to intestinal parasites so consider if a worm burden could be holding stock back, especially when a drought is broken.
The risk of clostridial diseases can also increase when a drought breaks, so check your vaccination programme. Be prepared to continue feeding supplements for some time once the drought is broken. Half of the standing grass is lost after rain because it is dead and decays quickly so you can suddenly have less feed available than you thought. Knowing that your stock are well fed and healthy is one of the most rewarding aspects of lifestyle block ownership.
“Summertime and the livin’ is easy” can be a reality as options abound for the motivated lifestyler to prepare early and meet whatever the season brings.
For further information, contact your Farmlands Technical Field Officer or the friendly team at your local Farmlands store.
Article supplied by Dr. Rob Derrick, Head of Nutrition and Animal Health