DRY-SUMMER STRATEGIES – part 2

Prepare now for earlier livestock feeding, tips to think about in drier times
Prepare now for earlier livestock feeding, tips to think about in drier times

Prepare now for earlier livestock feeding

 

Tips to think about in drier times

 

Working with Southern Farming Systems – the Victoria Drought Resilience Adoption & Innovation Hub’s South-West Node lead – pasture agronomist Cam Nicholson has been examining the impact of the dry spring that parts of Victoria have experienced.

A few dry months across South-West Victoria has decreased the normal spring pasture flush, meaning there is less carry over feed going into 2024.

“In the past two years, we have had a lot of carryover feed in South-West Victoria, but this is unlikely in 2024,” Cam said.

“The dry spring period has roughly halved pasture growth, with annuals running to head earlier and leaf emergence in perennials slowing as they become moisture stressed.”

Cam anticipates the impact of the poorer spring will mean farmers will have to start feeding about six weeks earlier than normal.

While it is not uncommon to supplement animals before the autumn break, feeding will start earlier and last longer according to Cam. Knowing a rough timeframe now allows farmers to plan, including examining if there is currently enough feed on hand. It also means farmers may need to being putting animals into containment earlier to manage groundcover and enhance perennial grass survival.

“Regrowth of our perennial grasses relies on the new tillers that form in the crown of the plants in spring surviving over summer.

“If we graze these crowns too hard over summer we run the risk of damaging these growing points, which means we will have poorer growth after the autumn break.”

Perennial ryegrass and cocksfoot pastures are more susceptible than phalaris or tall fescue to new tiller damage from grazing.

“Once we graze below 1,000kg/ha of residual dry matter, we increase the risk of wind and water erosion because too much soil is exposed,” Cam said.

Prepare now for earlier livestock feeding, tips to think about in drier times
Image credit: David Maunsell | unsplash

Another approach is to sell animals earlier, reducing the feed required.

“Selling stock earlier can delay the time to commence feeding the remaining animals – but with current livestock prices this isn’t very attractive at the moment.”

Next time we’ll cover a more detailed explanation of how to create a summer feed budget.

You can read part 1 of our Dry-Summer Strategies series here.