Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Returns outweigh ewe feeding costs

Supplementary feeding ewes in a drought easily pays off, says Hawke’s Bay vet Ian Walker. He told 60 farmers at the recent Beef + Lamb NZ Monitor Farm annual field day at Anawai, Elsthorpe, that returns easily outweighed costs for feeding ewes silage and grain for eight weeks. Back in February some farmers recognised their ewes were being under-fed and started feeding then, he says. They wanted to ensure the ewes would be able to maintain a reasonable scanning percentage for next spring’s production.

Veterinary Services Hawke’s Bay’s scanning database showed that in the best year, which was last year, mixed-age ewes scanned at 161%. In the worst year of recorded scanning results – 1998 – mixed-age ewes scanned at 132%, a reduction of 29%.

In Walker’s 1000-ewe flock, this would translate to 238 fewer lambs at docking. He assumed a lamb value of $85, and said the income lost from these lambs was $20,230.

He worked out that the 1000 ewes would be fed 600g of drymatter a day for eight weeks. Over the 56 days this would equate to 33.6kg/DM/ewe.

He assumed the feed would be a mix of silage and grain at 40c/kg/DM, so the cost to feed one ewe was $13.44.

The cost to feed the 1000 ewes was $13,440, giving a return of $6790 when the potential income lost from the 2389 lambs was taken into account.

Farmers had to be careful about the quality of supplements being fed.

Analysing both the supplement quality and cost was important. “Then you know what you are dealing with.”

ARL, an analytical lab in Napier, charges $65 plus GST for a full feed quality test. This includes results on protein, fats, lipids, fibres, starch, sugars, digestibility, and metabolisable energy. Kits including courier bags are available from ARL by phoning 0800-100-668 and results are available the day after samples are received.

Ensure animals are fully fed and continue feeding supplements after it rains to build up pasture reserves again, Walker says.

He says animal health issues aren’t a problem early in a drought. “Until now there have been pretty minimal parasite and disease issues.”

Parasites become a problem when animals are hungry, stressed and on low covers. And once it rains parasite problems increase.

“There will be a worm explosion after rain because there always is.”

Before tupping two-tooths, faecal egg counts should be checked. Younger animals are always a priority.

Walker warned farmers about possible poisoning with nitrates on crops and new grasses.

Nitrate accumulates in feed during a period of no growth, and plants need to be growing to dilute the levels.

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