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Drought Feeding

IMG_20180702_141201As we work our way through our fifth successive season without grass growth, we need to find ways to meet the nutritional requirements of the animals, and those who are either suckling or carrying young are having a tough time. Thanks to the generosity of our neighbours, we have the cows in a 400 acre bush paddock up the road which is not usually grazed. There’s a bit of dried up grass on the ground and an abundance of coarse shrubs and trees for them to eat, but it’s all very low in protein, so we’ve been making protein lick blocks for them. These contain some things we wouldn’t be comfortable feeding to the stock we kill for the market, so the weaner steers and wethers have been separated from the main herd and they are grazing a different paddock which still has plenty of dry feed. Their protein requirement is much lower than the breeders anyway, so they’re doing fine.IMG_20180630_101305

The ingredients of the lick blocks are:

Distillers syrup –  the left over protein and oil when wheat is distilled for ethanol. It’s a good sticky base that has a strong smell to attract animals to the block.

Salt – both attracts stock plus regulates how much they will eat.

Dolomite – for calcium and magnesium.

Cement – adds calcium plus makes the blocks harden.

Urea – a source of nitrogen which allows the stock to generate protein in the rumen.

Polyethylene glycol – a food additive which binds with tannin and allows higher consumption of the coarser shrubs.

As well as the blocks, we are out every day with them, showing them new places and encouraging them to eat a wider variety of feed. The more time we spend with them, the better they are getting at foraging for some of the less palatable stuff. You only have to look at the feral goats in the area, who are healthy as can be, to see that there is plenty to eat out there; for cows and sheep it’s simply not a part of their culture.

Sheep, cattle and goats are very similar in their digestive systems, so our goal is to build a more goat-like culture in the grazing habits of our livestock.

 

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