Five steps to successful stubble grazing

25 November 2016

Five steps to successful stubble grazing South Australian livestock consultant Hamish Dickson delivered strategies to optimise livestock nutrition during his presentation at the MLA/Australian Wool Innovation-funded Making More From Sheep (MMFS) session held during an Upper North Farming Systems workshop earlier in 2016.

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

1. Plan ahead

The major 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 i.e. 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, available grain and the projected daily grain consumption.

3. Work out the 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 grains, hay or silage, lick blocks (urea) or molasses.. 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. Carefully introduce stock on to stubbles and  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. Hail damaged crops/stubbles may provide significantly more grain to stock and introduction of stock on to these stubbles needs to be carefully managed to avoid acidosis.

More information

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

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