The old saying 'when it rains, it pours' appears relevant, as recent rain is changing the dry and desiccated appearance of drought to a green one in parts of the state, bringing new management challenges to livestock producers.
Northern Tablelands Local Land Services is warning producers to watch for bloat and pulpy kidney as dry pastures respond to recent rain events and warm soil temperatures, creating a sudden change in diet for livestock.
Tenterfield Local Lands Services veterinarian Lisa Martin said the impacts of a sudden change of feed can result in pulpy kidney, a disease in cattle, sheep and goats caused by the overgrowth of clostridial organisms or bacteria in the gut due to the consumption of high carbohydrate feed.
Animals being supplemented with heavy grain feeding or moving onto fresh green pasture are at high risk of the disease, which often manifests in young, fast growing livestock that are unweaned or recently weaned and are without a full vaccination history.
Ms Martin said pulpy kidney is fast-acting, and there are often no prior signs of sickness in livestock, so producers should act quickly to head off this insidious disease.
LLS district veterinarian, Andrew Biddle, recommended a vaccination program of two doses of 5-in-1, dosed 4-6 weeks apart, initially followed by a quarterly booster to achieve lasting protection against pulpy kidney.
"More frequent boosters are required in high-risk conditions like that we are currently experiencing, he said.
"It is also important to provide pregnant or lactating livestock with a mineral lick as animals are more susceptible to metabolic diseases such as pregnancy toxaemia, grass tetany and milk fever during these conditions.
While 'green pick' is a great sign of pasture growth and a reduced reliance on supplementary feed, new green growth also has a water content of up to 90 per cent, making it impossible for animals to eat enough to satisfy their nutritional needs if they do not also have access to other types of feed.
It can take between three to eight weeks before pastures offer a useful quantity of feed, with growth depending on the species of pasture and the height and density of these pastures before the rain event. Grazing pastures with a high water content (70 to 90pc water) and short height (30-90mm) means livestock will expend more energy grazing for many hours but can also set pasture recovery back significantly.
"Producers should continue to provide supplementary feed for livestock until pastures mature and the water content drops", Mr Biddle said.
A good rule of thumb before grazing is that pastures should be at a starting point of 10cm height or over, providing at least 1200 kilograms of green dry matter per hectare (DM/Ha).
Livestock are best fed in smaller paddocks where they can't chase green pick while those paddocks recover. Another strategy can be to slow down the paddock rotations, giving recovering pastures longer to grow while producers supplementary feed.
The Drought and Supplementary Feed Calculator can be a useful tool to assist in decision making around feeding livestock.
For more information about livestock health, contact your Local Land Services District Veterinarian or Livestock Officer on 1300 795 299.