Green crops and pastures, such as lucerne, forage oats/barley, will be ready for grazing shortly. These types of feeds can be very successful in terms of profit and maximising returns if the livestock consuming them are prepared in both health and nutrition.
Prior to placing livestock on green feed, vaccinating stock with a clostridial (5in1/6in1) is extremely important. Pulpy kidney is a leading cause of death in stock that are faced with a sudden change in feed. Changes in feed allow the pulpy kidney organisms to proliferate and produce large quantities of toxins, leading to the rapid death of the animal. For a small investment, vaccinating is a very cost effective form of insurance for the health of your stock. Best practice, it is advisable that you administer your stock with the clostridial at least 10 days before the stock are due to be placed on the new feed. This gives the vaccine time to give maximum protection before the challenge arrives.
Ensuring your livestock are free of a worm burden before placing them on green feed will maximise the utilisation of the feed. Worm burdens place a large amount of stress on an animal’s immune system, and their ability to convert feed to weight and/or milk if lactating, is severely impaired. This leads to significant feed wastage, and productivity loss. However, prior to drenching, it is recommended that you do a worm test to determine the burden and if required, the type of worms present. This allows for a more specific selection of drench (if needed at all) and reduces the risk of contributing to worm drench resistance. Many types of worm test kits are available at rural stores, with varying levels of testing capabilities.
On the surface, green feeds and fodder crops appear to contain reasonable quantities of both energy and protein. However, there are inherent problems. If not properly understood and carefully managed, this can result in both a reduction in Feed Conversion Efficiency (FCE) and a significant wastage of feeds, as well lead to animals showing primary signs associated with scours, bloat and grass tetany, and in severe cases, death. The main problems with these types of feed are a combination of high levels of protein/nitrogen, and low dietary carbohydrate (starch) levels. This imbalance in carbohydrate and protein, for which rumen microbes have specific requirements, results in unstable and impaired rumen fermentation.
To combat this imbalance, providing livestock with a source of starch is an effective method of combating the negative effects associated with grazing lush, green feed. Supplementing stock with high energy grains (such as barley or wheat) is an effective way to provide rumen microbes with quality starch to improve FCE, and allow your livestock to convert the feed into meat, milk, wool or progeny. It is important to note that these grains need to be managed correctly with advanced buffers to ensure the highest possible return. This is simply done by adding a specialised pellet to the grain.
If grain feeding is not an option, using starch based loose licks are a fantastic, simple and very cost effective method of delivering starch to the rumen, while reducing the incidence of scours and bloat.
By managing green feed and forage crops smartly with a specialised supplementary program, productivity is increased, and maximises your return on investment. It is easy, and very cost effective to prepare and ensure that your stock thrive on green feed!