With recent rainfall leading to the growth of new pasture - and given the availability of various supplementary feeds - do you need to keep feeding your livestock roughage?
Roughage, such as hay, may still be needed during winter for various reasons:
- Livestock require a minimum amount of fibre and long roughage to maintain their digestive systems. This is sometimes referred to as the "scratch factor" as it stimulates rumination
- If livestock are not used to green pasture, their rumen needs time to adjust to a new feed type
- Newly growing pasture may not contain adequate amounts of fibre
- Continuing to supplement livestock will allow new pasture to establish and grow
- It will help prevent hungry livestock from gorging on pastures that may cause conditions such as nitrate poisoning or bloat
- If feeding grain or pellets with too little roughage, acidosis/grain poisoning can occur.
As we move further into winter, hay may be needed to reduce the risk of grass tetany and provide a way to administer magnesium.
Another benefit from feeding roughage to livestock in winter is that it helps keep them warm, as the fermentation and breakdown of cellulose creates heat energy.
If livestock do not have enough roughage, they can lose weight as they utilise body fat to keep warm. Consider feeding late in the afternoon to help provide "heat" through the cold nights.
For more details, contact your local veterinarian or Agriculture Victoria animal health or extension staff, or in NSW, your Local Land Services.