A poor winter outlook for rain has prompted Northern Tablelands pastures agronomist with Local Land Services at Inverell, Georgie Oakes, to warn producers about the need to manage feed.
“Start thinking now about spring when maybe you’re planning to step back into the livestock market after destocking for the winter,” she asked. “What pasture varieties will you have coming to life as the temperatures warm up? What do you think the composition, health and nutrition of these pastures will be?
“Will you have the option for summer forage if it does rain? Or will you need to use a summer forage to combat weed as competition rather than using chemicals to control weeds?
“If you are considering planting pastures or summer forage or fodder options in the 2019-2020 summer start your homework now. We are already seeing a shortage in seed for both pasture and forage. It will take a few seasons for these stocks to return to full supply.”
Ms Oakes said producers need to consider what winter pastures they have and the health of their grass cover, calculating soil moisture at depth and what level of nutrition remains.
“If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to do an evaluation of the food you currently have on offer in the paddock.
“Very scattered summer storms continue across the Northern Tablelands region. With hot weather and the reduced pasture competition weeds are poking their leaves out.
“If you have been buying in feed please keep an eye out for new weeds on your farm. If you are bringing stock home from agistment be aware of the possibility of weed seed spread. Kangaroos, deer and birds are being forced to travel further for their food and are also contributing to the spread of weeds.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of taking the time to honestly forecast how these winter pastures are going to perform for you over a dry winter,” said Ms Oakes. “When making these assessments it is really important to also know what class of stock you will have and the feed demands of each.”
For pasture protectionist Dr Judi Earl, Coolatai, a destocking plan is imperative to retaining ground cover.
Come the end of March without rain she will remove cattle for the third time this drought, beginning early October when her mixed soil paddocks averaged 2000kg/ha. The process was repeated at the end of December with pasture at 1700kg/ha as measured with a stick and a heavy notepad dropped to induce compaction.
“Considering a cow and calf eat 20kg a day, creating a plan based around pasture is no different to making a cash flow budget. It is based on feed availability,” she said.