Five steps to successful stubble grazing

16 October 2015

South Australian livestock consultant Hamish Dickson delivered strategies to optimise livestock nutrition when he presented at an MLA/Australian Wool Innovation funded Making More from Sheep (MMFS) session at an Upper North Farming Systems workshop earlier this year.

Here are his top tips for managing sheep grazing on cereal stubbles:

1.  Plan ahead. The benefit comes not from the stubble but from the residual grain left behind at harvest.  It is important to align the feed with the requirements of the animal. Other considerations are stocking rate, water availability, the existing groundcover (a minimum 50% is recommended, higher is required for light soil types) and the type of stock grazing the paddock ie ewes or weaner lambs - as each have different nutritional needs. Use Making More from Sheep's tool on sheep nutritional requirements and DSE ratings for better planning.

2.  Do a feed budget. Calculate the number of grazing days by:

  • assessing grain availability
  • determining paddock size
  • the number of animals in the mob
  • the intake of the sheep based on the residual grain, the available grain and the projected daily grain consumption.

3. Nutritional value. Will the stubble meet the animal's nutritional needs?  In nearly all cases supplementation will be needed once grain availability has declined. This may be in the form of lupins or other grains, hay or silage, lick blocks, molasses or urea. It is always important to compare the cost efficiency of different supplementation options.

4. Monitor your sheep.  Ensure they maintain weight and body condition score. Use the Making More from Sheep condition scoring tool. Watch out for signs of ill health in the flock - particularly acidosis and pulpy kidney.

5. Make seasonal adjustments.  Green feed significantly changes the value of the stubble being grazed. Monitor and adjust supplementation or stocking rates accordingly.

More information

Hamish Dickson, AgriPartner Consulting E: hamish@agripartner.com.au

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