It’s continued to be pretty tough going season wise over a lot of eastern Australia. Decisions surrounding drought strategies will depend on a lot of different things and each circumstance will be totally different.
The most important thing to do is to make a decision.
For the sake of the discussion I will assume that all surplus, non-breeding stock and culls have already been sold and the prospects for growing feed are limited for the near to mid future.
You really only have 3 choices. Sell, agist, or feed.
To keep your cattle and not do anything is not an option. We are their carers. Those who starve their cattle need to be taken out of the industry.
If you choose to feed and keep your core breeding herd I believe you will be well rewarded in the future.
For maintenance a pregnant cow needs 3 main things.
Firstly – volume. A cow will need to consume around 2% of its body weight in dry matter (10 kg for a 500 kg cow) daily. This will depend on paddock feed available. If none then that is how much hay or equivalent would be needed.
Secondly – energy. A 500 kg cow would need approximately 70 MJ ME ( Megajoules of Metabolisable Energy) for maintenance each day. If the quality of the roughage source is poor quality hay and/or pasture then an energy supplement would need to be added. Grain or molasses are 2 choices.
Thirdly – protein. If protein is limited in the ration then the energy will not be fully utilised. Therefore it is important to have a balance. A 500 kg cow will need around 9% useable protein. If the hay or pasture on hand is poor in protein then it will have to be supplemented. There are a few safe natural protein meals available that would help ie. Cottonseed and cottonseed meal, canola meal, DDG etc.
This is just a brief outline. If you choose to feed then I would definitely get advice. You will need to do a feed budget to make sure that you are getting the best value, particularly when it comes to energy. You will also have to consider how to feed. What equipment etc you have available.
This link is a pretty comprehensive guide to what you need to know. It was put together by Agriculture Victoria and is titled – Drought Feeding and Management of Beef Cattle
We didn’t have enough square hay feeders, two round ones did the job! Cattle were happy enough.