The hot, dry weather means cattle farmers should consider weaning animals earlier, according to the Northern Tablelands Local Land Services Officer for beef cattle, Jason Siddell.
He said farmers needed to think now about strategies for when and if the hot weather continues.
“With dry seasonal conditions continuing, and above average temperatures forecast,” he said, “many cattle producers will be, and if not, should be developing management and marketing strategies to deal with potential water and feed shortages before they arise.”
One possibility is early weaning. He said it would “enable them to better manage the fat score of their cows to maintain productivity for next year, i.e. calving and weaning percentages or ensuring cows that are in low body condition can improve prior to sale.”
The calculation is that, as he puts it, “a 600 kg lactating cow requires 13.6 kg of good quality hay to maintain condition with no paddock feed available. Once you wean the calf off the cow and feed separately, the amount of feed required for maintenance drops (8 kg of good quality hay for the 600kg cow and 3.5kg of good quality hay for a 200kg weaner). The health of both the cow and calf will also improve.“
He added that “Early weaning while the bulls are still in with the cows can also help to increase conception rates. The stress of weaning a calf and stopping the suckling effect will trigger cattle in lower condition to start cycling.
“One of the best ways to achieve higher conception rates and calving percentages in 2019 is to wean earlier in 2018, than you usually would (this may only be by a month or two). Weaning will reduce the protein and energy requirement of the cow and allow the cow to gain weight (grow muscle and deposit fat) prior to feed quality decline occurring in autumn and winter depending on your location.”