Plan’s the thing for dry spells

You need a short term, medium term, and long term plan according to John Meban

You need a short term, medium term, and long term plan according to John Meban

BIG DRY: If the world continues to emit a high amount of greenhouse gases we may experience 10 percent more drought by 2040. By 2090 that is projected to rise to more than double the droughts we suffered in the mid-1990s.
John Meban

THE most important thing you can do during extended dry spells is to have a plan. In fact, more than one plan. You need a short term, medium term, and long term plan. Rain last week has brought a much-needed psychological boost but is far from enough to get us out of the proverbial. We still need a lot more gentle and regular follow-up rain. Yeah right!

Now is when your short-term plan kicks in. Though stock water and stock condition are holding on in most places, past experience shows that early responses pay off in the long run. Short term planning is all around what decisions you make during or while you are in the event and should be monitored and reviewed regularly. This is right now as we are still fast approaching a drought being declared.

Again, it’s all about feeding, water, shade, monitoring and revising decisions.

Questions to ask:

  • How much feed do I have now?
  • How many animals can I feed and for how long?
  • What animals am I going to feed?
  • Do I have enough water?

You need to have a clear and reasoned series of moves to either reduce feed demand (sell down) or increase supply (utilise crops, graze off, feed supplements).

Feed options

At this time of year there are often many alternative feed options available from horticultural waste/by-products. Many of these are good short-term feeds. Be careful when feeding supplements.Introduce them slowly and build them up slowly. These feeds are often not complete diets but short term can make all the difference. If in doubt, ask for advice.

Feeding high quality complete diets is usually the most expensive option in drought and the numbers need to be crunched and recrunched before you take the leap.

NOTE: following this recent rain nitrate poisoning is a potential issue when feeding fertilised and rapidly growing crops.

If in doubt get them checked before grazing.

Introduce animals gradually to transition them and allow the rumen bugs time to adapt. You should be down to winter numbers as soon as possible. You need to prioritise animals in terms of which to feed or sell. Usually older, more productive capital breeding stock are ring fenced as the last to be sold.

Ewe mating

Fortunately, at the moment nearly all the stock I have seen are in good condition and holding up well. This year would be a good year not to put the ram out with the hoggets but that’s a long way off. Perhaps that early lambing CFA ewe mob should be disposed of.

One of the biggest challenges currently is we are fast approaching ewe mating and flushing is highly unlikely for all if any animals. Mobs should be drafted according to condition score and lighter ewes fed ahead of others. Keep chasing the tail! This is where you will get the most bang for your buck. Good conditioned sheep on maintenance will still take the ram well.

You could consider delaying mating or splitting mating, and waiting for rain but if it doesn’t come you may well be worse off. The consequences of this at the other end of pregnancy need to be thought through as well.

Calf weaning

If the dry continues into the autumn, building winter covers to meet the nutritional demands in late pregnancy is always a challenge. Something to consider is early weaning of cows if their condition score is suffering.

It may be hard to find a place for calves. Introducing them to supplements while still on Mum is a good way of training them before weaning. This year may be an opportune time to scan cows early and sell down dry and late cows early.

We can scan down to 6 weeks from bull removal. We could go earlier (by 21 days) and rescan dries if you want to sell down in a hurry. Talk to your vet about your options.

Drenching

This recent rain though a godsend does not come without potential fishhooks. I usually recommend a barber’s pole treatment 10 days after warm rain. Try to avoid blanket use of such products and use an exit drench to minimise drench resistance issues. This recent warm rain coupled with lots of litter in the bottom of the sward is also ideal for facial eczema spores to take off.

Watch the district spore counts and even better, monitor you own. Unfortunately, a bit of a potential double whammy!

This season has been relatively good from a fly challenge perspective. However, be on the watch as warm moist conditions are favourable for flies. There is a common theme going on here. Warm moist conditions following dry are parasite and pest nirvana. Lice can also take advantage and thrive on drought-affected animals.

Treatment should be considered where necessary. Off shears treatments are usually the best and cheapest options.

Medium-term plan

Your medium-term plan is all about recovery when drought-breaking rain comes. It’s about giving areas of the farm a chance to regrow good quality tucker as fast as possible. It is often tempting to shift animals as soon as possible. However, if you have been feeding out, keeping animals on sacrifice paddocks is a great way of building covers quickly.

Grass grows grass. Areas with some leaf and that are more fertile will recover more quickly and though tempting should not be grazed too soon. These are also the areas that will respond to strategic nitrogen best. Targets are, setting up the winter feed levels, body condition recovery and getting back to a manageable carrying capacity as soon as possible.

Post-drought bear in mind animals will have been grazing in and around snail habitat and we usually see a high liver fluke challenge in these years.

Strategic fluke treatments

Strategic fluke treatment/s should be built into your plan where necessary. Do not forget to monitor trace element status of animals as well post drought as these can have a big impact on future performance and may need special focus.

MPI is monitoring the situation and a drought committee was convened on Monday to keep track of things and kick in if required.

THE most important thing you can do during extended dry spells is to have a plan. In fact, more than one plan. You need a short term, medium term, and long term plan. Rain last week has brought a much-needed psychological boost but is far from enough to get us out of the proverbial. We still need a lot more gentle and regular follow-up rain. Yeah right!

Now is when your short-term plan kicks in. Though stock water and stock condition are holding on in most places, past experience shows that early responses pay off in the long run. Short term planning is all around what decisions you make during or while you are in the event and should be monitored and reviewed regularly. This is right now as we are still fast approaching a drought being declared.

Again, it’s all about feeding, water, shade, monitoring and revising decisions.

Questions to ask:

  • How much feed do I have now?
  • How many animals can I feed and for how long?
  • What animals am I going to feed?
  • Do I have enough water?

You need to have a clear and reasoned series of moves to either reduce feed demand (sell down) or increase supply (utilise crops, graze off, feed supplements).

Feed options

At this time of year there are often many alternative feed options available from horticultural waste/by-products. Many of these are good short-term feeds. Be careful when feeding supplements.Introduce them slowly and build them up slowly. These feeds are often not complete diets but short term can make all the difference. If in doubt, ask for advice.

Feeding high quality complete diets is usually the most expensive option in drought and the numbers need to be crunched and recrunched before you take the leap.

NOTE: following this recent rain nitrate poisoning is a potential issue when feeding fertilised and rapidly growing crops.

If in doubt get them checked before grazing.

Introduce animals gradually to transition them and allow the rumen bugs time to adapt. You should be down to winter numbers as soon as possible. You need to prioritise animals in terms of which to feed or sell. Usually older, more productive capital breeding stock are ring fenced as the last to be sold.

Ewe mating

Fortunately, at the moment nearly all the stock I have seen are in good condition and holding up well. This year would be a good year not to put the ram out with the hoggets but that’s a long way off. Perhaps that early lambing CFA ewe mob should be disposed of.

One of the biggest challenges currently is we are fast approaching ewe mating and flushing is highly unlikely for all if any animals. Mobs should be drafted according to condition score and lighter ewes fed ahead of others. Keep chasing the tail! This is where you will get the most bang for your buck. Good conditioned sheep on maintenance will still take the ram well.

You could consider delaying mating or splitting mating, and waiting for rain but if it doesn’t come you may well be worse off. The consequences of this at the other end of pregnancy need to be thought through as well.

Calf weaning

If the dry continues into the autumn, building winter covers to meet the nutritional demands in late pregnancy is always a challenge. Something to consider is early weaning of cows if their condition score is suffering.

It may be hard to find a place for calves. Introducing them to supplements while still on Mum is a good way of training them before weaning. This year may be an opportune time to scan cows early and sell down dry and late cows early.

We can scan down to 6 weeks from bull removal. We could go earlier (by 21 days) and rescan dries if you want to sell down in a hurry. Talk to your vet about your options.

Drenching

This recent rain though a godsend does not come without potential fishhooks. I usually recommend a barber’s pole treatment 10 days after warm rain. Try to avoid blanket use of such products and use an exit drench to minimise drench resistance issues. This recent warm rain coupled with lots of litter in the bottom of the sward is also ideal for facial eczema spores to take off.

Watch the district spore counts and even better, monitor you own. Unfortunately, a bit of a potential double whammy!

This season has been relatively good from a fly challenge perspective. However, be on the watch as warm moist conditions are favourable for flies. There is a common theme going on here. Warm moist conditions following dry are parasite and pest nirvana. Lice can also take advantage and thrive on drought-affected animals.

Treatment should be considered where necessary. Off shears treatments are usually the best and cheapest options.

Medium-term plan

Your medium-term plan is all about recovery when drought-breaking rain comes. It’s about giving areas of the farm a chance to regrow good quality tucker as fast as possible. It is often tempting to shift animals as soon as possible. However, if you have been feeding out, keeping animals on sacrifice paddocks is a great way of building covers quickly.

Grass grows grass. Areas with some leaf and that are more fertile will recover more quickly and though tempting should not be grazed too soon. These are also the areas that will respond to strategic nitrogen best. Targets are, setting up the winter feed levels, body condition recovery and getting back to a manageable carrying capacity as soon as possible.

Post-drought bear in mind animals will have been grazing in and around snail habitat and we usually see a high liver fluke challenge in these years.

Strategic fluke treatments

Strategic fluke treatment/s should be built into your plan where necessary. Do not forget to monitor trace element status of animals as well post drought as these can have a big impact on future performance and may need special focus.

MPI is monitoring the situation and a drought committee was convened on Monday to keep track of things and kick in if required.

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.

Poll

  • Voting please wait...
    Your vote has been cast. Reloading page...
    Do you agree with the council's decision to defer plans for a wetland, as part of city wastewater treatment?