With harvest kicking off around the Central West, many producers will be looking to utilise stubble paddocks or failed crops as a feed option for livestock.
Sheep grazing stubbles are highly selective and prioritise eating spilt grain and any green pick when these components are available. Therefore, grain poisoning can be a risk. Where possible sheep should be inducted onto grain before they enter the paddock and introduced with full bellies.
With any rapid change in diet there is also a risk for pulpy kidney. Ensure sheep are protected through up-to-date vaccination.
Dry feed diets such as grains and stubbles have low vitamin A and E content and pose a risk of deficiency to sheep. These vitamins are found in green feed and stored in the liver. Deficiency occurs when liver stores are exhausted, >6 months with no green feed.
It is essential to have a supply of good quality water. A sheep will require 3–5 litres/ day when grazing stubbles, depending on their size and the ambient temperature.
Supplementation with salt will increase water requirements and sheep can consume up to 12 litres of fresh water per day when on a grazing diet with a high salt content.
Stubbles are a feed source that starts as high quality but declines rapidly (as the sheep clean up the spilt grain). The protein content of cereal stubbles is typically less than 10%.
Remembering that growing stock need 14-18% protein, supplementary feeding with high protein grains or lupins is a practical option to improve protein intake. The best way to measure feed value is through a feed test. Local Land Services currently we have a limited number of free feed and water tests available for livestock producers. Please contact your local office on 1300 795 299 for more information.