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Grazing management of winter cereals

By Brett Littler
Senior Land Services Officer (Livestock)
We are now starting to see large numbers of stock go onto winter forage crops and I am getting some of the usual questions about what should I do to my stock to get the most out of it.
Livestock health
  • Make sure your 5 in 1 vaccination is up to date (last 3 months as a minimum). I would vaccinate your stock a week before putting them out. It is very cheap insurance.
  • Never put hungry stock straight onto a crop. Fill them up with hay and put them in later in the day not first thing in the morning.
  • Avoid grazing stock that are susceptible to grass tetany (e.g. cows in late pregnancy/early lactation). 

What supplement

If you are going to supplementary feed, make sure you feed something that is going to add value and improve performance. Therefore you need something that is of higher quality. This does not leave you with many options other than grain, and even then it knocks out some varieties of oats which have a ME (metabolisable energy) of below 11 ME/kg/DM. As this is the quality of most of these forage cereals.

Grazing wheat

Work by CSIRO has shown a substantial increase in weight gain by getting stock to consume a magnesium supplement. The easiest way to do this is a 1:1 mix of Causmag® and salt. You can make this yourself and it is a dry lick.

Another option is 2-2-1, limestone, salt and Causmag® in a dry lick. This is particularly useful for pre lamb ewes. Also instead of Causmag® or limestone you can use dolomite instead. (these mixes are also useful for other winter cereals).

Should block them up!!!!

Most people tend to do this with hay. The quality of this hay is far less than the forage crop. Therefore, the overall quality that stock are eating is reduced so hence this is a bad thing!!! You are reducing the overall performance of your stock and therefore, their weight gain.

But the feed is going straight through them; Most of the time this is a sign that the feed is very high in moisture (80% at times). Stock can only handle so much water and hence it has to go somewhere!!! Don't worry.

Times when feeding the roughage/hay can help are;

  • To lambing ewes to help rumen function
  • When the scouring is caused by excess protein not excess water or
  • When moisture content is above 83%

Stocking

Stocking densities on cereals will depend on your animal production targets and what you want to achieve. Continuous grazing of winter forage cereals gives better animal performance as the best feed on offer will always be selected. This can only be achieved if stocking rates are balanced with crop growth rates and the feed on offer is not being significantly depleted and therefore reducing the animals ability to select better quality feed.

High stocking densities are used under rotational grazing but lower animal performance can be expected than from continuous grazing. Rotational grazing can, however, be used to maximise the grazing value of a crop, by reducing wastage from trampling and/or frost damage or by the restriction of intake per head. Techniques such as strip grazing or limiting access times to the crop can also be used for rationing feed.

For more information please contact Brett Littler on 63781708.