Most winter forage crops provide good quality, highly palatable feed, with energy (ME) ranging from 8 -14 (MJME/kg DM), protein (CP) 14-32% and dry matter (DM) ranging from 15 – 32%. Many people are starting or are planning to put stock onto winter forage crops.
Like all new pastures and crops, introduction needs to be slow. Ruminants tend to graze at a ratio of 70:30, 70% in the morning vs 30% in the afternoon. Therefore it is best to fill livestock up with hay during the morning graze and then introduce them to the new crop in the afternoon. This will decrease the risk of digestive upset in an unadjusted rumen.
If this is not possible for you to slowly introduce the livestock, ensure you have a roughage source available in the paddock, such as medium to good quality hay. The hay’s quality is important. If poor in quality animals will not eat it, so it becomes ineffective in providing roughage to the animals.
All livestock should be bought up to date with their clostridial vaccinations too, i.e. 3-in-1, 5-in-1, 6-in-1 and 7-in-1, prior to being introduced to the crop.
By Dr Sue Street
Central Tablelands Local Land Services