Managing sheep in droughtlots

Managing sheep in droughtlots

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Advertiser content: Degradation of pastures during times og drought is of considerable concern to most sheep producers. Soil degradation and low pasture productivity post drought are common costs associated with periods of drought for sheep producers.

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Degradation of pastures during times of drought is of considerable concern to most sheep producers. Soil degradation and low pasture productivity post drought are common costs associated with periods of drought for sheep producers.

One of the most important issues for any farm business emerging from drought is the need to restore the business to optimum productivity and profitability as quickly as possible. The purpose of the droughtlot is to assist this specifically by preserving preferred pasture density or composition and minimising soil and nutrient loss from bare ground.

There is a short term cost associated with confining sheep because once confined the ration has to be increased to compensate for the lack of pasture intake.

This cost can be significant, for example if confined and fully fed a sheep may consume an extra 1kg/head/week for eight weeks, compared to a sheep supplemented at pasture. If the cost of grain is $400/t, the additional feed cost incurred confining sheep is $3.20.

However if we consider this as a per hectare cost it would be as shown in Table 1. The additional cost per hectare is relatively small compared to the investment in soil, fertility and pastures. 

When considering the cost of damage to soils and pastures, keep in mind:

• Re-establishment costs, often around $300 per hectare.

• Lost grazing from paddocks while pastures are re-established.

• Reduced productivity of pastures until the more productive pastures are reestablished. It will take 10-20 years if pastures need to be reestablished on the whole farm.

• If a drought results in substantial pasture and soil damage, such as loss of soil nutrients the cost of the damage can exceed many fold the cost of additional feed.

There are numerous factors and strategies sheep producers should consider and ensure prior to establishing a droughtlot facility. These factors can influence the effectiveness and efficiency of the operation and in turn save or cost the farm business valuable income and resources depending upon how they are developed, implemented and subsequently managed.

To download an extensive guide to droughtlot feeding and other drought resources head to www.wool.com/ droughtresources

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