BILL Hallas knows how tough drought conditions can be for farmers.

The former Gatton saleyard auctioneer has seen many difficult times as a livestock agent and as a grazier himself.

Running 60 head of cattle across his two Lockyer Valley properties, Mr Hallas said it was important small farm owners did not expect to "fatten" their livestock during the drought.

He said an adequate supply of hay and access to a lick block would ensure cattle achieved the correct nutrients to maintain their health.

For the 20 head at his house farm, Mr Hallas said the majority of hay was provided to cows in-calf, as they had "double the job to do".

"I'm not providing too much hay at all (for the rest of the stock), it would be less than one round bale a week," he said.

Mr Hallas reserves a six-acre paddock each year, which he bales for his own use to get him through tough seasons.

Gatton grazier Bill Hallas gets a helping hand at the farm from his grandson Lucas.
Gatton grazier Bill Hallas gets a helping hand at the farm from his grandson Lucas. ALI KUCHEL

In addition to the hay, he provides a lick block to give the herd minerals to convert the hay into energy and protein.

"The cattle will tell you if they don't want it," he said.

Not only is it important to supply feed and lick but Mr Hallas said it was important to ensure no twine or foreign objects were accessible to cattle.

He said when feeding hay, be sure to pick up string and twine.

"When it's dry like now, I've seen them eat poly pipe because they are lacking food and they will try anything they can pick up," he said.

 

Maintaining cattle weight

University of Queensland senior lecturer ruminant health and production Dr David McNeill.
University of Queensland senior lecturer ruminant health and production Dr David McNeill. ALI KUCHEL

IN TESTING drought conditions and increasing prices of fodder, feeding livestock can be a challenge.

Add in attempts for pasture management and it can get very challenging.

But University of Queensland animal health and production senior lecturer David McNeill says there are ways to ensure livestock receive the important trace minerals and fodder for body maintenance, as well as promoting pasture regrowth.

With some properties in the region receiving rain in the past week, Dr McNeill said now was the time to care for pastures.

"At this time of the year farmers should be thinking about pasture recovery," he said.

To allow that, livestock need to be removed from most grazing areas and concentrate them onto a paddock that is OK to be chewed up a little.

Many grasses in southern Queensland are tropical, such as rhodes grass, green panic or kikuyu.

While these grasses require moisture to grow, soil temperatures also need to be at least above 15C.

Dr McNeill said restricting livestock from main pastures until about October would allow for grasses to gain strong roots and permit optimal regrowth.

"Livestock owners should allow at least two leaves to fully emerge per stem before letting animals onto it and ideally four leaves per stem for a tropical pasture," he said.

 

Cattle tuck into some hay at Bill Hallas' property.
Cattle tuck into some hay at Bill Hallas' property. ALI KUCHEL

In addition to pasture management, Dr McNeill said providing low-quality hay along with a supplement rich in protein would assist livestock to maintain weight.

While some might think lucerne hay would be the best, Dr McNeill said it could be extremely expensive.

Supplements such as a dry lick, which contain a mixture of urea, protein meal, salt, limestone and trace minerals, will supplement roughage, helping to at least maintain body weight until the new pasture gets going.

Alternatively, livestock owners can utilise a wet lick, such as fortified molasses, which does the same job.

"The dry lick and fortified molasses only go well with plenty of hay or dry feed in the pasture," Dr McNeill said.

 

It's not a feed on its own.

 

He said spreading licks and hay across the paddocks would ensure all animals had access to feed.

But caution is required for dry licks, ensuring they do not become wet, which can become fatal for cattle due to the urea possibly becoming more concentrated and therefore toxic.

If dry lick is inaccessible, Dr McNeill recommends cotton seed meal as protein to complement low-quality hay, especially for weaners or breeders. Whole cotton seed is also good as it is rich in energy and protein, with the hulls providing extra fibre.

If hay in inaccessible, palm kernel meal can be used for cattle but is not recommended for sheep and goats, which are more susceptible to copper poisoning than cattle.


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