How to look after your cattle’s welfare during the drought
The hot weather and dry season in Australia can be crippling for farmers. This year, the rainfall has been the lowest since the 1902 Federation drought. Drought or hail, farmers need to feed their cattle. To do this, they sometimes need to make tough decisions in regard to feeding, weaning, herd numbers and the general wellbeing of the cattle.
Weaning early is one of the most commonly cited ways of reducing water and forage requirements during a drought. A lactating cow typically needs between 50-65 per cent more nutrients than a dry one. Creep feeding prior to weaning can be especially useful in easing the transition from milk to feed. This naturally involves high costs but the expense could be offset by making better use of your existing water reserves.
As pastures become exhausted, there will be an increasing need for feeds that provide both protein and energy. Protein and energy are often supplied through grain and molasses. Cattle appear to self-regulate their intake of the whole cottonseed, which minimises overeating. Many other grains, however, can be difficult and dangerous to feed. When changing the grain diet, it should be done gradually. Sorghum, oats, wheat and barley are commonly used, but molasses is one of the cheapest sources of energy. One kilogram is equivalent to about 0.7 kilograms of grain and is very safe for cattle to consume. Additional protein will be necessary as molasses itself has very little protein. Urea is a cheap source of protein, but it can be dangerous. It must be mixed thoroughly with the molasses.
Making the best use of available forage is key to handling cattle during a crisis. Using hay rings or cone feeders can reduce waste when compared to feeding on the ground. Feeding cattle on a stricter schedule, and not leaving out more than is required can also help to reduce waste. Be sure the fields are properly stocked – overstocked fields will be more adversely affected by drought conditions, while under-stocked fields won’t provide the best use of the resources.
Stressed cattle will be less productive and more prone to health problems – adding to the expenses. Cows must have adequate drinking water and shade. Quality livestock chutes and handling systems can also help to reduce cattle stress. To ensure your new cattle yard and cattle handling equipment is of high value and ensures low stress for you and your cattle, contact Steel Supplies Charters Towers to learn more about what we can do for you and your livestock.
Droughts are difficult, but they do eventually pass. Timely action by farmers is critical to help cattle survive the harsh conditions.