Skip to content

Farmers beware: the pitfalls of funny feeds

Farmers searching for drought feed for hungry livestock are urged to beware of the potential problems that could be caused by unusual feed stuffs.

With traditional feed supplies of hay and grain running low, Central Tablelands Senior Lands Services Officer, Brett Littler, has been inundated with inquiries about unusual sources of stock feed.

According to Brett there is potential for very serious consequences when it comes to some of the feed stuffs being peddled, particularly through social media outlets.

“Funny feeds like onions, potatoes and watermelons have all been advertised as alternative feed sources, but these options can be deadly for sheep and cattle,” warned Brett.

Onions are toxic to cattle when fed in larger quantities than 1.5 kg per head, while potatoes and turnips are a choking risk for livestock. With other fruits and vegetables, very low dry matter content can make these crops unsuitable as livestock feed, as livestock are unable to consume large enough quantities to supply their energy needs.

“I’ve recently seen watermelons offered on Facebook possibly by people with good intentions trying to help farmers out,” reported Brett. “However they need to understand that the water content is so high that cattle fed only water melon as a ration would starve to death.”

Fruit and vegetables with low dry matter content can also be deceptively expensive. “I had a call about cabbages being sold at $570 a tonne delivered, but the dry matter cost worked out to be over $5000 a tonne, not to mention the other issues,” said Brett.

Other issues include the risk of moulds, and also unregistered chemical residues from crops grown for human consumption. Although chemicals used on vegetables may be safe for humans, if they are not registered for use with livestock there is no allowable maximum residue level in meat, creating a residue hazard which could threaten export markets.

“I’ve lost count of the number of strange feeds I’ve been asked about recently, everything from liquorice, cakes and biscuits to carrots and oranges,” said Brett Littler.

Brett advises the high sugar content in confectionary products can create a laxative effect in animals, and pose a risk for glycosis disease, while carrots can cause animal fat to turn yellow and become runny after slaughter. In severe cases, if the fat fails to set, the carcase will be condemned.

Brett Littler urges farmers to talk to someone who understands nutritional requirements of stock before feeding unusual products to livestock.

“Given the potential problems related to these ‘funny feeds’, and the low levels of dry matter, in most cases it’s likely cheaper and safer to buy grain which is still widely available.”

“Even top quality hay is selling for less than $500 a tonne of dry matter, while grain is worth under $500 a tonne, and it’s the dry matter content that counts,” said Brett.

For further advice on livestock feed contact your nearest Central Tablelands Local Land Services vet or livestock officer in Bathurst, Cowra, Lithgow, Molong, Mudgee or Orange.