Updated: Jul 7, 2020
Many areas are still hand-feeding while the pastures establish, but hay is becoming even more expensive as quality declines.
While still on grain and hay diets to provide animals with energy or to keep them going through lambing, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Most hays, while less energy than grains, play a critical role in animal health and feed conversion.
When on high grain diets the animals need a buffer to keep the rumen pH low and prevent acidosis or sub-acute ruminal acidosis, which can eat heavily into the profit line from low performing animals.
The cheapest and most effective buffer comes from the animal, when sheep and cattle ruminate they are further breaking down the food for better digestion and creating endogenous bicarb to maintain rumen pH. With low fibre rations there is less buffering occurring, therefore less of the feed is being converted into energy. Commercial buffers are a great tool when used in conjunction with enough fibre.
High quality hays are an excellent source of energy and fibre, however as we sit on the shoulder of the season the idea of bringing in another truck isn't exciting, so supplementing with even a bit of straw or buying a lower quality hay to top up the better fodder can mean better feed conversion efficiency.
The way a rumen works is that it always needs to be full to work efficiently, this is even more important when ewes and cows are close to lambing and calving to get the rumen distention and to reduce metabolic illnesses.
Short or new grass, while full of energy and protein, has little filling capacity, this is where a simple tool such as straw or cereal hay can fill up the rumen, slow down passage rate and get more return on investment from both your grass and purchased feed.
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