Updated: May 20
Welcome to our Summer update! This season is proving yet again to be challenging, with curve balls of summer rain, rising grain prices and endophyte issues in some areas.
ARE ENDOPHYTES STIRRING UP ISSUES ON YOUR FARM?
This summer there is likely an issue with pasture endophytes due to recent summer rains. This type of toxicity is found in ryegrass (PRGT Perennial Ryegrass Toxicity), and Tall Fescue. It is often referred to as Staggers.
WHEN: Issues occur when the plant is stressed, typically seen in early summer at a time of year when a decent rain kick starts pasture growth. The high temperatures and lack of follow up rain cause the plant to be stressed and send out toxins as a defence mechanism. WHY: The plant has a natural response to stress to help it resist against pests and disease. This response produces Endophytes – toxins that are created to try and protect the plant, but are toxic to livestock. Some alkaloids flatten out the veins thus reducing blood flow and causing heat stress, others are partially converted to LSD hence making animals “spooky” or "spooked" and difficult to manage. CATTLE: It is less dramatic in cattle, however in lactating cows milk will be reduced, effecting calf growth rates. Cattle will experience increase in body temperatures, and often become flighty and difficult to manage. SHEEP: It is not uncommon to have large scale mortalities from PRGT. The sheep suffer heat stress, get hot and swim in dams in which they can then become stuck. Often they fall over, can’t graze or drink and generally are unproductive and unmanageable. MANAGING IT: Dilution is the best cure i.e. Feed stock forage that is not affected. However, this is not always feasible. A toxin binder will assist to deactivate the toxins, this is a cost effective way to manage these issues preventing losses in productivity. TPM Bovine Boost and Flock Boost with the inclusion of Elitox® is a cost effective and simple method to manage PRGT
MAXIMISING LOW QUALITY FEED
Supplementary feeding can seem like a costly exercise, however done correctly and measured thoughtfully, the outcome can pay dividends. Be sure to value your inputs and have the end game in mind. Three key requirements we look for if we need to supplement feed: 1. Protein – from protein grains or protected sources. 2. Energy – from grains high in starch or high quality fodder for weight gain. 3. Dry matter intake – Physically having enough food from either pasture or roughage.
Consistency of feeding out can make or break your weight gains. The rumen takes 3-6 weeks to fully develop to a new feed source, when we feed grain the animal needs to develop a new mixture of microbes to efficiently breakdown and utilise the feed components. If we only feed every few days, or most days and skip the weekends, the pH and populations in the rumen will change and struggle to keep up, often resulting in slower growth rates or weight loss. For this reason, it’s also important to be aware of the rates we are feeding to avoid critical issues such as acidosis.
The benefits of feeding a protein source are due to the stimulation of these microbes, that breakdown valuable feed bases such as stubbles to get the full benefits and maintain condition. We have already paid to get the animal to its current weight, so it is more cost efficient to maintain liveweight than it is to put back on later. Keeping an eye on body condition and conducting regular pasture assessments means we can pick the correct date to come in with grains before going backwards.
During autumn, winter and spring the green grass often has enough protein and energy to meet maintenance requirements. Summer pastures and stubbles can be a great source of feed, however with the decreased digestibility (>NDF 60%) the animals are consuming less forage that has a lower energy density. For the rumen to function well and extract energy from feed there must be sufficient protein in the diet - protein grows more rumen bacteria to extract energy from the forage.
• Consistency of feed to maintain the rumen microbes
• More protein = grows more microbes = more available energy
• Target 12% Crude protein (CP) for maintenance and 16% CP for growth
FEEDING CONCENTRATES - IT CAN BE SIMPLE!
Feeding Young Stock for Weight Gain
To achieve target growth rates, we often need to supplement with grain when on low quality dry feed. Methods include:
Ad lib feeders - Time efficient and cost effective method of feeding. However this method must be monitored carefully to prevent inconsistent feed delivery and careful observation for she feeders. For best results, a suitable transition procedure must be conducted.
Trail feeding - Even feed distribution, reduced incidence of shy feeders with correct induction, physically able to monitor intakes and mob condition, potentially higher wastage but less capital cost and we see more consistent weight gain on average.
Feeding For Ewe Maintenance
This summer is shaping up to be yet again another challenging one, with high levels of dry feed on the horizon with early summer rains and a sharp finish to the growing season. Assessing feed availability we can see there is bulk, however high NDF and low protein leads to a false sense of security, as animal requirements for maintenance, growth or pregnancy still remain. Nutritional requirements for maintenance can be kept to a minimum when condition scoring early in the season (NOW) as opposed requiring additional weight gain down the track. Supplying an extra 5-7 MJME of energy to make up for lost condition is a cost which could have been avoided. For a few cents per hd per day and the additional inclusion of a protected slow release protein source, TPM Dry Feed Supplements can assist with utilisation of standing dry feed and maintenance. The success of ruminant productivity is related to consistency, we see time and time again great results when applying this approach to livestock production systems. Any one of our team is available to discuss your personal requirements and simple application methods.
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