Wine and livestock aren't a pairing you would usually put together but the holistic approach is paying off for Mudgee's Stein family.
Vines of grapes are at the forefront of the Robert Stein Winery and also played a pivotal part in supporting their cattle and pig numbers during parched seasons.
Grape marc, the solid remains of the fruit after processing for white wine and rose, are combined with dried distillers grain and fed out to livestock throughout autumn, enabling them to retain all 45 Angus breeders, 40 to 45 finished weaners and about 120 pigs.
The source of digestible fibre, which can be a replacement for cereal hay, allowed them to turn off cattle at about 500 kilograms direct to Coles while their free-range Berkshire cross Saddleback pigs are killed in Oberon and processed at Montecatini Smallgoods Deli.
"We did still have hay to mix in with it because there was minimal grass at the time but I think it probably was the difference between us being able to hold on to our cattle," Jacob Stein said.
"We probably would have done our best to hold onto them in any case, because we don't have huge numbers and the farm and winery being able to offset the purchasing of hay, but it definitely helped hold on to all of them in a time when a lot of our neighbours and people we know were having to sell cattle."
The Steins have about 242 hectares at Eastwood, with 15 hectares dedicated to the vineyards and a larger 40 hectare portion currently sown to oats, wheat and lucerne.
As a contract wine making facility they were left with large quantities of by-product following processing from February to April.
The grape marc ration is mixed using a grape picking trailer and fed out at about 30 kilograms per cow and lasts a week or more.
"We have never had a problem with feeding any of our livestock the grape marc," Mr Stein said.
"It gives them plenty of energy and makes them browse a little bit better and obviously there is plenty of sugar and great nutrients in the grape marc and the pigs and cattle love it.
"They have a shiny coat. We often get people even in the cattle industry saying how healthy our cattle always look.
"It definitely goes to show that they are definitely well nutritioned and very happy."
Holding on to their core breeder herd had a special meaning for the Steins.
Most of the females dated back to breeding lines established by Jacob's grandfather, Robert 'Bob' Stein.
In the drought of 2004/05/06 they were reduced to the final three heifers from those bloodlines but were able to hang on and rebuild their herd, now using Coffin Creek bulls.
"The females now are the daughters of the three heifers," Jacob said.
On the wine front, production has been reduced by up to 75 per cent due to the impacts of unfavourable growing conditions last year.
"In a normal year we would have about 50 tonne of grape marc which is fed out and this year it is only about 15 tonne," he said.
They are now selling their wine direct to their members and small goods through local stores.
Producers looking to incorporate grape marc in their livestock feeding regime are reminded to utilise it in a complete or total feed mix ration.
Local Land Services livestock officer Brett Littler said grape marc was a cheaper feeding alternative but there were some things to consider before feeding it.
This included understanding its increased water content and ensuring seeds were processed and digestible. Oil levels can also test as high as 20 per cent, he said.
"Grape marc is high in tannins which bind the protein, that basically makes some of the protein unavailable to livestock," he said. "It's been around for years and years and it's quite commonly used in feedlot rations."
Grape marc is often used as a roughage source, up to about 20 per cent.