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Making the RIGHT decisions to survive the dry

Posted by Bestprac on Dec 05 2013

AgriHort Communications

Far west New South Wales has once again been plagued with a short to medium term weather forecast that predicts no rain for at least the next four months. Therefore, pastoralists now must make some serious business decisions, with feed quality predicted to decline and livestock needing to be maintained.

A recent Information Day held at Broken Hill, titled Striving Through the Dry, offered pastoralists some vital livestock advice on managing feed and animal husbandry during dry conditions.

John Squires from Rural Directions Pty LtdOne of the speakers to offer suggestions was Rural Directions Pty Ltd director and senior consultant, John Squires whose take home messages were:

  1. Look at the future weather outlook for the next four months.
  2. Assess ground cover, feed availability and its nutritional level.
  3. Look at either buying supplementary feed to maintain core breeding stock, agisting to southern properties or selling as finished stock or stores.
  4. Control total grazing pressure by controlling other grazing species such as goats.
  5. If you intend to buy supplementary feed, then get the feed quality tested before you purchase it.

Based on the future weather outlook, pastoralists must remember high temperatures will cause significant evaporation, so declining water conditions should be considered when making the final decision on how to manage stock.

“Realistically, conditions in the far-west of NSW could become dire if large amounts of rain don’t arrive,” John stressed.

“And once feed levels decline and the feed loses its nutritional value, livestock will begin to lose body condition.”
In terms of maintaining Body Condition Score (BCS) for livestock; John explained that sheep needed to be no less than 2.5 and a good average was 3.

“As feed quality falls, the animal struggles to maintain condition in terms of muscle and fat development. For sheep this could also mean the wool quality deteriorates or ewes with lambs at foot rapidly lose condition,” he said.

“Also, if you want to sell the animals, anything less than BCS 2 will sell at a discount as a store.”

For cattle, John suggested a BCS of between 2.5 and 3 was, again, a good target. “Anything less than BCS 2 and breeding cows will struggle to breed, maintain a calf or achieve an acceptable sale price.”

During dry times pastoralists also need to consider whether paddock feed will Landscapemaintain the condition of their sheep and/or cattle breeding stock or whether some stock need to be sold, fed supplementary feed or agisted out of the area.

When discussing the nutritional levels of feed, John stressed that it was critical to maintain sustainable ground cover across all paddocks.

“At least 50 per cent ground cover is the target set by the Western Catchment Management Authority and anything under that means you need to make a decision to reduce the stocking pressure on that particular piece of land,” he explained.

But what about buying feed? John said: “If producers decide to supplementary feed some stock, they then needed to analyse their financial figures before making the final decision.”

“Ascertain whether it is worth trucking in grain and hay to maintain livestock BCS or if it is more viable to sell stock or agist now,” he said.

“Many producers in this area have made the decision to sell some stock early but feed and water levels continue to decline.”
Attendees at the information day were reminded that pastoralists may be able to access freight subsidies for stock transported due to animal welfare concerns.

Funding application details are available at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries website or by contacting the NSW Rural Financial Counselling Service Central West office on T:(03) 5021 1558.

Finally, John said that, before pastoralists make any decisions to talk to their accountant, rural financial counsellor or bank manager, there may be taxation or other concessions available for forced sales due to dry conditions.

Last changed: Dec 06 2013



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