There is a chill in the air and as we head towards winter producers are urged to make the most of their paddock feed by supplying protein supplements for cattle.
Jason Siddell, Senior Lands Services Officer with Northern Tablelands Local Lands Services, advises cattle fed a protein supplement can significantly increase their utilisation of low quality pastures.
“In most western parts of our region there is still good pasture and recent rain will increase both quality and quantity. The wet weather will also prompt growth in eastern areas but as soon as the weather cools, plant growth will slow and pasture availability will likely be limited in coming months.”
“You can make better use of the feed in your paddocks easily and cost effectively by supplying some form of protein supplement but keep an eye on herbage mass to ensure groundcover and plant composition are maintained at an optimum level,” said Jason.
A variety of protein supplement products are available from lick blocks to dry licks and protein meals.
Lick blocks can be convenient, however producers are advised to calculate the cost of the protein and whether the goal is to maintain or increase livestock weight when making decisions about what product to use.
When using dry licks or blocks which contain urea farmers are advised to be alert for potential urea poisoning. Supplying stock grade salt to cattle before starting protein supplementation can reduce the risk. The salt can be a cost effective way to satisfy their initial craving so that stock don’t then gorge on urea.
“Also ensure when feeding urea based protein supplements that you start at around 4 - 5% urea and build up gradually from there,” advised Jason.
“Dry licks can be used to minimise weight loss, however if the goal is to promote weight gain, protein meals are a better option.”
Most protein meals are safe to feed to cattle, however soya bean meal can be problematic and producers will need to be more cautious in how it is introduced to stock.
If lupins are used as a protein source, they should be cracked for cattle so stock can better utilise this feed source.
Information on making your own blocks or protein meals is available online at: www.dpi.nsw.gov.au. For more information on livestock management and feed options contact Jason Siddell on 0459 162 295.