Successful Lot Feeding
A few tips might help to achieve good outcomes with lot feeding either sheep or cattle with pellets. It has to be remembered that pellets are grain-based feeds and some fundamental principles of intensive feeding need to be followed to get optimum results.
Pushing animal performance intensifies a few risks and it is worth taking a few appropriate precautions. Generally, the best outcomes follow the maximum level of compliance with market specifications across a group of lambs or calves.
Housing is pretty important for a start. It is handy to provide accommodation that is as comfortable as possible. Around 5m2 for lambs and 15m2 with a 2-5% slope in a spot close to facilities and away from the clothesline is a good start. Livestock are very social and it is also good for them to not have to make too many new friends so a maximum group size of 300 lambs and 100 calves is a good yardstick. This means an enclosure of 1500m2 is about right for either. At this time of year, a bit of shade is useful but not over the feeding or watering areas or loiterers will prevent access by the hungry or thirsty. Any established trees should be securely fenced off at least to the drip line because compaction, ring-barking and nutrient load are eventually lethal.
Competition in the schoolyard can cause a few problems so it is handy to have a group that is likely to get on with each other. Keeping variation in size to about 10% reduces arguments especially if some of the other management factors are difficult to control. In any event, it is important to keep an eye out for any individuals who are struggling to handle the system and put them together somewhere else for special care.
At the start of the journey, there are several pre-treatments that will help avoid pitfalls. Immunisation against pulpy kidney is ‘essential’. This means two shots of vaccine 4-6 weeks apart. If the second shot happened to be more than 3 months prior to feedlot entry it is a wise precaution to give a booster. If worm status is uncertain a drench is also a good idea. A few ‘optional extras’ might come into consideration depending on history and status, such as Vitamin ADE, Vitamin B12 and BRD vaccines (for introduced cattle).
Nutritional management is the final factor. Introduction to the feedlot and feed sets the stage for success. A balanced pellet accompanied by good-quality roughage and water ensures the best chance of good, consistent performance.
There will always be the likelihood of individuals that adapt less well to intensive husbandry. It is important to identify these as early as possible and manage them appropriately. A couple of specific health issues to look out for are Bovine Respiratory Disease Complex in cattle (particularly in mixed groups and those from sale yards), polio-encephalomalacia (‘star gazers’) and shy feeders.
FEEDING STUD STOCK
All livestock need an adequate and balanced supply of nutrients to express their genetic potential. This is especially important for stud stock being prepared for sale and even more important for younger animals such as yearling bulls and ram lambs. If they are to showcase their best they need to be well fed.
It is reasonable to assume that stud stock have the greatest genetic potential due to selection. This implies that they have the highest demand for nutrients unless they are inherently more efficient at utilising available resources.
It is not unusual for diets to be at least marginally deficient in particular nutrients and to have imbalances between critical nutrients such as phosphorus, calcium and magnesium. In the WA environment, it is also very possible for trace nutrients to be deficient. It must however be kept in mind that energy and protein are the first limiting nutrients.
Providing a compound feed in the form of a pellet can be a convenient and cost-effective way to complement an existing forage base to achieve great results. Kojonup Feeds can customise feed to suit specific situations.