We all know that little feed on the ground and high cost of bought feed, as well as the headache of sourcing such feed takes its toll on the humans and the animals alike. Hard decisions have to be made whether to reduce numbers, and accepting typically lower prices or whether to hold out for hope. The dry also brings with it many animal health complications we need to be aware of, particularly as we have plenty of stock either in the throws of giving birth or caring for very young stock at foot. We also have to remember our legal requirements of looking after animals in our care. All animals are to be provided food, drink and shelter to prevent distress to the animals.
Decreased energy and body stores lead to not only a weakened body but also immune system making livestock more prone to accidents, nutritional problems and infectious diseases. Watering points and feeding areas cause animals to congregate in large numbers increasing stress and the risk of infectious disease spread such as salmonellosis, pneumonia, coccidiosis and, external and internal parasites. Hungry stock will eat things they normally wouldn't eat including toxic plants, rubbish, carcasses and bones leading to a variety of issues. There is a higher risk of botulism as well as ingestion of twine and silage wrap causing gut impactions due to feeding out large amounts of preserved feed.
Pregnant and lactating animals are at risk of pregnancy toxaemia (particularly when in good condition) and ketosis. Mineral disturbances resulting in grass tetany and milk fever also become more common. Stressed plants also pose a risk of causing nitrate poisoning which results in almost sudden death in stock.
Things producers can do include:
- Check stock regularly
- Monitoring body condition score of stock
- Prioritise stock that are pregnant or feeding young
- Feeding in feeders or troughs to decrease faecal contamination of feed
- Avoid feeding garden clippings
- Ensure appropriate vaccinations and anti-parasiticides are up to date
- Don't transport weak animals
Take note of any abnormal signs and deaths, and talk to your local private or LLS vet if you are concerned. Seek advice from a nutritionist before feeding supplements or mixing up elaborate rations, particularly if it is a novel feedstuff, to ensure they are fed properly - this may seem costly but can save you a lot of heartache. Make dietary changes slowly. Taking action as early as possible will minimise any potential impacts on the welfare of animals, and ultimately your bottom line.