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MITIGATE THE WET PASTURE CHALLENGE TO OUT-WINTERED PREGNANT STOCK

The high rainfall and saturated ground conditions throughout autumn and into early winter have left pastures lacking in nutrients for out-wintered suckler cows and ewes.

“In many areas of the country, rainfall has been so substantial that out-wintering sheep and beef cattle are grazing nothing more than ‘green water’. Grass may look plentiful at the moment, but in these conditions, it is typically extremely wet and of low quality,” says Dr Alison Bond, nutritionist for Rumenco.

High moisture content will inhibit pregnant cattle and sheep from consuming enough dry matter to meet intake and nutrient demands during critical foetal development in late pregnancy. But according to Dr Bond, supplementing pastures with poor quality forage or straw will help provide dry matter to fill the rumen without adding condition to the animal.

“Assessing grazed and supplemented forage for quality and quantity will help determine how much additional dry matter is needed,” explains Dr Bond. “For livestock that had adequate body condition at breeding, forage needs to be low in energy to ensure body condition is maintained ahead of lambing and calving. Adding on unnecessary weight during mid to late gestation will predispose livestock to metabolic issues like milk fever and could result in dystocia.”

While feeding low quality forage or straw is a recommended way to provide rumen fill, it must be balanced with protein, vitamins and minerals. An effective way to do this is to feed a high protein mineral block or low moisture bucket to help with intake and utilisation of rough grazing.

“A feed and mineral block like Rumevite Hill illGrazer for in-lamb ewes in hill grazing situations or a low moisture feed bucket like PROMAXX for in-lamb ewes and in-calf suckler cows will provide adequate protein supplementation while also delivering essential vitamins and trace elements that tend to be diluted in high moisture forage,” says Dr Bond. “This includes trace elements like selenium, cobalt and zinc that are essential during foetal development.”